Mayor looks to alarm companies to ease budget crunch

Thursday, September 25, 2003

September 25, 2003

SEATTLE - Facing budget shortfalls next year, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed a license fee for alarm monitoring companies as a means of bringing in additional revenue.

Nickels made the proposal in his 2004 budget, which the Seattle City Council will consider on Sept. 29.

Under the proposed licensing structure, alarm companies would be required to pay an annual fee of $40 for each of its monitored burglar alarms, $80 for monitored fire alarms not required by fire code and $320 for monitored fire alarms required by law at larger institutions, such as hospitals and schools.

The mayor has also proposed a $125 fine for false burglar alarms. Last year, 98 percent of the dispatched alarms for police service were false. At present, false alarms can result in a citation to be handled in municipal court. The new fees would be handled by the city’s Department of Executive Administration and, like the licensing fees, would be billed to the monitoring company rather than the alarm owner.

"The main intent is to hold alarm-monitoring companies more accountable for false alarms and reduce the number of unnecessary police and fire responses," Nickels told the Seattle Press. He estimated that the fees could recover more than $1.56 million in city costs that have, until now, been lost because of false alarm responses.

Stella McDonald, executive director of the Washington Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, said she hadn’t had time to study the mayor’s proposal, but the association’s state board would examine the budget prior to next Monday’s city council meeting.