Council Discussions on Mill Creek Annexation

Public Invited to Council Discussions on Mill Creek Annexation to South County Fire
Posted on 01/18/2022
The Mill Creek City Council is holding two meetings to take public comment on plans to ask voters to annex to South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority (South County Fire). The City’s contract for fire and emergency medical service with its current provider expires at the end of the year. South County Fire offers the same quality and level of service, and is the most cost-effective option for residents moving forward.

“We’ve had a good deal for a long time and that is ending,” said City Manager Martin Yamamoto. “South County Fire is the most cost-effective option for residents moving forward. Under annexation, emergency service levels and the quality of those emergency services will be protected for residents and businesses.”

The meetings will take place on Tuesdays, February 1 and 8 at 6:00 pm. Community members will have three minutes to share their opinions and ask questions about the proposal. Details for 
accessing both meetings can be found on the City’s website at During its February 8 meeting, the City Council anticipates making a decision whether or not to place the annexation proposal on the April 26, 2022 Special Election ballot.

South County Fire is headquartered south of Everett and serves unincorporated southeast Snohomish County north and west of Mill Creek, and the city of Lynnwood. It also provides fire and emergency medical service (EMS) to the cities of Brier, Edmonds, and Mountlake Terrace under three separate service contracts.

Currently, Mill Creek contracts with Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue (SRFR). The City started exploring other options for fire and EMS after SRFR informed the City that the contract would renew at a rate equal to what property owners in the fire district paid. This would have almost doubled the contract costs to Mill Creek property owners, and resulted in the City making dramatic cuts to other city services.

Under the current contract, Mill Creek property owners pay a general property tax levy and an EMS levy to the City, which in turn pays SRFR for service. Of the general property tax levy, $0.51 per $1,000 of assessed property value goes for fire service. The EMS levy is at $0.37 per $1,000. Together, the equivalent amount for fire and EMS is $0.88 per $1,000 for Mill Creek property owners in 2021. Many property owners in Snohomish County pay an agency closer to $2 per $1,000 for the same level and quality of service.

South County Fire funds fire and EMS through a fire levy, a levy for emergency medical service, and a fire benefit charge. The equivalent rate for property owners in 2022 is $1.51 per $1,000. SRFR’s rates are $1.83 per $1,000 for fire and EMS. 

Mill Creek voters must agree by a simple majority to annex to South County Fire during the April 26, 2022 Special Election. The annexation would then take effect in August 2022. Under annexation, Mill Creek property owners would pay South County Fire directly for service beginning in 2023. 

The City can reduce its general levy by the $0.51 per $1,000, or retain some portion of that revenue to fund services such as police, roads, and parks. The EMS levy would be paid to South County Fire instead of the City if annexation is approved.

If voters choose not to annex, the City will need to raise more revenue to pay for higher emergency service costs. This could include taxes, fees or assessments, such as utility taxes, an ambulance utility fee, and increasing the EMS and general property tax levies.