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South Whidbey Record – March 3, 2020

The first public hearing for the fire department’s proposed levy lid lift will take place next week.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS is looking to increase the levy from 65 to 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The fire department is legally allowed to increase the amount of property taxes by only 1 percent, or $1.50 per $1,000, every year without a vote.

The increase in tax revenues would be used to hire eight full-time firefighters and emergency medical technicians, respond to increasing call volumes and replace aging apparatus, including two 26-year old fire engines and three medical emergency response vehicles.

According to a press release, the fire district is considering asking voters to approve the levy lid lift during the Aug. 4 primary election.

“Staffing and apparatus deficiencies resulted in the community’s insurance rating being downgraded in 2018. This rating is linked to how much home and business owners pay in insurance premiums,” the press release stated.

Upcoming meetings, including the first one on March 12, will help the district’s board of fire commissioners decide whether to place the lift on the ballot.

“This is the first public meeting that we’ve had on the levy increase,” Fire Chief Rusty Palmer said. “It would be great if folks would come and express their opinions, both positive and negative, so the board can make a better decision.”

The meeting will happen at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 12 at the Bayview fire station.

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