Benefit Charge


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FBC Phone: (425) 433-2127


FAQs for the FBC

1. What is a Fire Benefit Charge? (FBC)
The fire benefit charge is a fee that is associated with the amount of risk that a building poses. The more the risk, the higher the fire benefit charge (FBC). For example, a large commercial building has a higher risk than a residential home. It is calculated in a formula that uses the square footage of the building (dwelling and attached garage) to determine the charge that will be applied. It is not a “per call” charge and it is not based on property value; it is a fee that is based on the benefit of having fire protection.

2. Why does the FBC Calculator use a “Historical Average”?
Over the last 20 years, the Maple Valley Fire Department has needed to collect an average of $1.69 per $1,000 of the value of your property to maintain the fire department as it sits today. As you can see in the line graph below, our revenues in 2017 plummeted to $1.31 per $1,000. There are varieties of reasons that this occurred; the excess levy came to an end, compression due to I-747, and the inability for the fire district to grow with property values. When the 2017 rate dropped to $1.31 per $1,000, it put us at a tremendous and non-sustainable budget shortfall. For a year by year comparison of what you paid for the fire department, please visit the King County Parcel Viewer at , type in your address to find your parcel number, click on your “Property Report”, select “Click here to see levy distribution comparison by year” under the pie chart in the “Total Levy Rate Distribution” box.

3. Didn’t we vote on this last year?
You did. The FBC failed with an approval rating of 58%. In order for the measure to pass, the fire department needs an approval rating of at least 60%, (a super majority). Most citizens that were asked believed that the FBC had passed. Those that voted no informed us that they did not understand the FBC, and the consequences of it passing or not. We realized that we did not do a good enough job explaining the FBC, which is why we are asking you to reconsider it again. This time with a clearer description.

4. Why use a Fire Benefit Charge?
A citizens steering committee looked at several funding options before recommending the benefit charge to the Board of Fire Commissioners to maintain emergency service levels and fund capital needs. The current funding model is tied directly to assessed valuation which causes unforeseeable service fluctuation.

5. Why is the FBC more fair?
The FBC value is not assessed on your property value; it is assessed on how much it costs to defend your home in a fire. For example, if you live in a neighborhood where you have a view of Mount Rainier, and your neighbor around the corner with the exact same style of house does not, your property taxes will be higher with the view. With the FBC, those factors are irrelevant; we base the FBC rate on the square footage of your house, regardless of views or other factors that would increase your property tax rate. Your FBC rate would be the same as your neighbor without the view.

6. Are there other benefits of an FBC?
A typical election can cost between $50,000 to $75,000 dollars. A FBC should eliminate the need to run capital bonds and excess levies. The FBC also allows for a stable long-range planning. Under the current model, long range planning is far more difficult, and more likely to be inaccurate. The FBC allows the fire department to plan with a far greater degree of confidence, and address issues early on before they become a larger more costly issue.

7. What controls are in place for the FBC?
The Maple Valley Fire Department Commissioners are elected officials who represent you. As a safeguard, the law requires the Commissioners to hold a public hearing to set the FBC for each upcoming year. The FBC law provides property owners the opportunity to appeal the amount of the FBC locally within your Fire District. Further, the law stipulates the FBC can never be more than 60% of the District’s total budget

8. What if I have concerns about my FBC?
Once the FBC is set, property owners are notified by mail of the individual charge, and an appeal process is made available for any property owner who may have concerns. Should a property owner have concerns about the FBC, the Commissioners of Fire District have the authority to deal directly with the property owner’s concerns and make any necessary remedies.

9. Once the FBC is approved is it permanent?
No, the FBC is required to be reauthorized every 6 years by our citizens.

10. Is vacant land and out buildings assessed in the FBC?
No, vacant land and out buildings are not assessed in our calculations.

11. Can I calculate my own FBC?
Yes, you can, but the formula is a little complicated so we recommend that you use the comparison lookup tool we have provided above.
Please remember that we use the square footage listed on King County’s database, which might be different from your own calculations. The formula for the Fire Benefit Charge is:
√square feet x (fire flow) x (category factor) x (cost per gallon) x                   discounts) = fire benefit charge

There are potential discounts if you have a sprinkler system or if you are a senior citizen. You can go to the King County website to check for senior citizen qualification at: