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Published on Friday, March 24, 2017

Fire Insurance Premium Tax distribution formula changed in Senate budget – Impacts 44 cities

In a proposal similar to one in last year’s budget proposal that was vetoed by the Governor, the Senate proposed budget changes the distribution formula for 2017-19 and the intent to change it for 2019-21 for the 44 cities and two fire districts that receive distributions for their pre-LEOFF firefighters’ pension fund and LEOFF 1 medical costs. The changes could have the effect of eliminating this distribution for many recipients.

Under the budget proposal, a city’s distribution would be frozen at $2,000 per firefighter eligible for the pension fund, or the 2017 distribution, whichever is less and subject to the following conditions:

  • The jurisdiction is levying the 22.5 cent property tax under RCW 41.16.060 for the firefighters’ pension fund, and
  • The jurisdiction can demonstrate that the levy is not sufficient to meet the estimated demands of the fund.

These new requirements do not take into account the complexities of the property tax system and the realities of the impact of the one percent property tax limit.

It also does not take into account the significant LEOFF 1 medical cost liability these and other cities face. In a 2015 report, the State Actuary estimated the accrued liability for LEOFF 1 medical benefits is $3 billion for approximately 6,300 retirees. Nearly 40 percent of these retirees were city firefighters.

Cities who receive these distributions should contact your legislators to remind them of the importance of these distributions to your cities, your unmet funding needs for LEOFF 1 medical liability, and your inability to replace this funding with local revenue options.