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Fire district pays back Langley overcharge

"The three commissioners representing Fire Protection District 3 put their signatures on a $93,000 check made out to the city of Langley this week, paying off a debt the district owed the city since the Island County Assessor's Officers inadvertently overcharged Langley residents for their fire protection last year.The overcharge came after the Langley Fire Department merged with FD 3 in 1999. Under the terms of the merger, city taxpayers were to have been exempted from FD 3's $0.81 per $1,000 property tax levy for the 2000 tax year. That exemption did not get counted into the Island County Assessor's tax table, which caused Langley taxpayers to be charged a total of $2.11 per $1,000 - $0.81 more than the standard city levy of $1.30.Solving the overcharge took months of meetings between city staff, the county assessor, and staff from the Washington State Auditor's office, said FD 3 Chief Don Smith. After the taxing error was discovered, district and city officials had hoped they could eliminate the FD 3 levy for the 2001 tax year to make up for the 2000 overcharge. But they soon learned that move would not be legal under state law: Taxpayers in one part of a taxing district may not pay a different levy rate than those in another. As a compromise solution, Langley officials agreed to reduce their 2001 levy to $0.54 per $1,000 and to accept a $93,000 payment from FD 3 to make up for the lowered rate and to pay back the overcharge. That payment went out Tuesday.We just cut the check, Smith said.The solution has worked well, according to Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman.Everybody's whole and everything's as it should be, he said.The one-year tax break was built into the fire department merger agreement to partially compensate Langley for more than $150,000 of city fire equipment turned over to FD 3. "

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