In addition, we endeavor to be transparent in our decision-making and financial affairs to allow our taxpayers and the District’s voters to have the ability to assess if we are making efficient use of public funds and providing good value for the cost of our services.
The district’s primary source of revenue is a property tax levy as specified in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 52.16. However, the district shall work to develop diversification of revenue to include, but not limited to intergovernmental revenue, and fees for service.
Understanding property taxes and fire district funding is a bit complex. There are two components to CWIFR’s property tax revenue. The regular levy and the voter-approved bond levy for specific capital projects.
First, who pays fire district taxes? Properties within the district’s boundaries that have buildings pay fire district taxes unless they are exempt such as schools, government buildings, and churches. There is no fire district tax on property that does not have buildings.
There are multiple limitations on property taxes, one is that the general levy rate for a fire district cannot exceed $1.50/$1000 of assessed valuation (AV). A second is that the general levy cannot increase more than 1% per year plus the revenue resulting from the construction of new buildings. As a result, if the assessed value of property paying fire district taxes increases, the levy rate goes down, and conversely, if the assessed value decreases, the levy rate goes up, but cannot exceed $1.50/$1000 AV.
The district’s bond levy was approved by the voters in November 2017 to pay the debt service on a bond for renovation and expansion of Station 53 on Race Road and purchase of three fire engines to replace apparatus that was reaching the end of its life cycle. This voter-approved levy is outside the statutory $1.50/$1000 AV limitation on the general levy.
After property taxes (regular and bond levy), the district’s major revenue streams result from charges for service. This revenue results from interlocal agreements providing payment for services to other local and state governmental entities including:
The district’s ILA with WhidbeyHealth provides annual revenue of $281,000. The revenue generated by the other ILAs is variable as it is dependent on the amount of work performed.
Long term financial planning involves resource and requirements forecasting and strategizing how to meet both the current and future needs of the community. Preparing for an uncertain future requires consideration of a wide range of factors as well as direct and indirect influences on Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue’s success in providing the community’s desired service delivery level on a sustainable basis. The district’s strategic plan, long-term financial plan, and capital projects plan.
Each of the elements of the district’s integrated comprehensive plan (ICP) influences the development of the annual operating and capital budgets. However, the long-term financial plan and capital projects plan have a direct impact on the development of the annual budget.
The district uses a bottom-up, modified zero-based budgeting process in project, program, and division managers build and present the budget proposals for review by the deputy chief, finance officer, and fire chief prior to finalizing the proposed district budget for submittal to the board of fire commissioners. The budget is closely aligned with the district’s strategic goals, initiatives, and performance measures.
Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue has received the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for seven consecutive years. This award recognizes the district’s commitment to best practice and excellence in budgeting. In order to receive this award, the district’s budget document must meet published criteria for effectiveness as a policy document, an operations guide, a financial plan, and a communications device.
The district’s finance officer provides the board of fire commissioners several financial reports on a monthly basis, these include the monthly budget position and check register. These reports can be downloaded from the fire commissioners page of the district website.
As a municipal entity in the state of Washington, the district is required to file an annual financial report with the State Auditor’s Office (SAO). This report provides financial information in a standardized format that allows comparison across similar agencies. The district’s financial data is also available using the SAO Financial Intelligence Tool (FIT). The Office of the Washington State Auditor has developed the Financial Intelligence Tool (FIT) to provide financial transparency into local governments within Washington. When using the FIT search for Island County Fire District 5 (Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue).
Annually, the board of fire commissioner selects one commissioner to serve as the district’s internal auditor. This commissioner reviews district financial records on a recurring, but unannounced schedule throughout the year as a key element of internal financial control.
In addition, as with all municipal entities, Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue (CWIFR) is regularly audited by the Washington State Auditor’s Office (SAO). CWIFR receives an annual financial and accountability audit from the SAO on a biannual basis (for the preceding two years). The district has completed all audits since 1986 without a finding. When using the SAO Audit Report Database search for Island County Fire District 5 (Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue).
A bond rating is a grade given to a bond by a rating service that indicates its credit quality. The rating takes into consideration a bond issuer’s financial strength or its ability to pay a bond’s principal and interest in a timely fashion. Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue is one of the few fire districts in the nation that has received a AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s.
The district’s procurement guidelines provide a uniform method of procurement and purchasing procedures for equipment, materials, services, and public works projects that is consistent with District policy, Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Washington Administrative Code (WAC), and guidance provided by the Washington State Auditor. These guidelines define the authority for expenditure of funds, requiring board approval for single purchase expenditures exceeding $10,000 and authorization by board resolution for sole source procurements exceeding $10,000.
All district expenditures are presented in the monthly financial transactions report to the board of fire commissioners. Bids and contracts for purchases exceeding $10,000 may are available or review so our stakeholders can evaluate the contract and evaluate if the district chose the best solution for the community.