Proposal approved by wide margins in both jurisdictions

By Don Nelson

Voters in both the Town of Winthrop and Okanogan County Fire District 6 have approved a proposed annexation of the town to the fire district by a wide margin in each jurisdiction.

As a result of the Feb. 14 special election, Winthrop will be annexed to the fire district in 2018 and become part of the district’s tax base.

The Okanogan County Auditor’s office’s second vote count, released on Friday (Feb. 17), showed the proposal winning in Winthrop, 89 “yes” votes (76 percent) to 28 “no” votes. Voters in the fire district approved the proposal by an even wider margin, 953 “yes” votes (86 percent) to 152 “no” votes. Those totals reflected voting trends after the first round of ballot counting on election day.

Voters living in Winthrop and voters who live within the fire district boundary each must, as separate entities, approve the annexation proposal by a simple majority for it to take effect. If either of the jurisdictions had rejected the proposal, the annexation would not take place.

Town and fire district officials have said that under annexation, the level of fire protection services for Winthrop residents will remain the same as they are now under an existing contract between the town and the fire district that continues through the end of this year.

In 2018, when the annexation goes into effect, town residents will see their property tax bills increase by 64 cents per $1,000 of assessed evaluation, the same rate that District 6 now assesses its rural residents.

But the town’s tax assessment bill will drop by 52 cents per $1,000 in 2019, when an earlier bond issue to pay for a fire truck is retired. So the net property tax increase will be 12 cents per $1,000 after the town’s first year as part of the district, according to the town.

Residents of Twisp, which also contracts with Fire District 6 for fire services and is not part of the district, didn’t vote in the special election.

When Winthrop is part of the district, town residents will be eligible to vote in elections affecting Fire District 6 operations, and will be eligible to run for positions on the district’s board of commissioners.