Message from Fire Chief Rusty Palmer:
We want to thank the South Whidbey community for supporting a recent fire levy lid lift request. As of this writing, the ballot measure is passing with almost 65 percent of the vote. Funding will be used to hire full-time personnel and replace aging apparatus for residents served by South Whidbey Fire/EMS.
There are three reasons we made this request. First, to respond to higher call volumes and reach you faster in an emergency. Second, to provide some relief to our volunteer firefighters and keep them involved in the fire district. And, third, to improve our community insurance rating, which is linked to how much property owner’s pay in insurance premiums.
We realize that these are unprecedented times for our community, state and nation. We are sincerely grateful that our community has prioritized emergency services as worthy of their tax dollars. We will continue to report back to you as we complete these public safety improvements.
Thank you again,
Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer
Public Meetings (Virtual) to Questions About the Fire Levy Lid Lift
South Whidbey Fire/EMS is hosting two virtual meetings to answer questions about its Fire Levy lid lift request on the August 4 Primary Election ballot. The meetings will be held on Wednesday, July 15 and the following Thursday, July 23 from 7:00-8:00 p.m. using virtual technology. Due to social distancing guidelines, interested parties can attend the meetings using a computer, tablet, smart phone, or dial-in telephone.
To connect to the July 15 meeting: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/512179965
You can also dial in using your phone: (571) 317-3129 Access Code: 512-179-965#.
To connect to the July 23 meeting: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/213585021
You can also dial in using your phone: (646) 749-3129 Access Code: 213-585-021#
Fire Chief Rusty Palmer will deliver a short presentation and then take questions. Those unable to attend, but still have questions are encouraged to contact Chief Palmer personally at 360-321-1533 or email@example.com.
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Historically, South Whidbey Fire/EMS has relied on volunteers to respond to calls. During the last recession, we lost 30 percent of our emergency responders. Since that time, we’ve maintained the same number of volunteers. However, call volumes have increased 12 percent since 2014, and our volunteers are struggling to meet this demand. Often, we must rely on mutual aid from neighboring fire districts which can take longer to reach you in an emergency. Our community insurance rating was downgraded last year as a result of staffing and apparatus deficiencies.
More calls mean added costs, and inflation also has impacted our fire district’s budget. The fire district is limited to a one percent revenue increase per year. However, inflation for our area has averaged three percent. This translates to cost increases that are out of the fire district’s control ranging from 2.5-17 percent in most budget areas. We also expect costs to rise because of expenses associated with COVID-19.
COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, has shown all of us just how critical emergency services are to the health and well-being of our community. Our funding needs predate the pandemic, but the request is timely. That’s why South Whidbey Fire/EMS is asking voters to consider a fire levy lid lift of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value ($10 per month for the owner of a $400,000 home).
The fire district is asking voters for a fire levy lid lift of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. If approved, the fire levy rate would change from 65 cents to 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. By way of comparison, the fire district’s levy rate was $1.00 in 1990. The maximum a fire district could ask for by law is $1.50.
If approved by voters, funding from the lid lift will be used to replace apparatus and hire up to eight full-time firefighters to improve our emergency response. These positions will be cross-trained as Emergency Medical Technicians to serve our aging population. (Eighty percent of our calls are for emergency medical service.)
Fire Chief Rusty Palmer welcomes questions at (360) 321-1533 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for considering our request.
FIRE CHIEF AVAILABLE FOR VIRTUAL PRESENTATIONS
Fire Chief Rusty Palmer welcomes invitations to speak (virtually) to local service organizations, community groups, and homeowner associations. He can provide an overview of the Fire District, an update on emergency response in our service area, and share information about the fire levy lid lift request. Please contact Chief Rusty Palmer at (360) 321-1533 or email@example.com to schedule a presentation.
PUBLIC MEETING HELD MARCH 12 AT 5:30PM
The Board of Fire Commissioners for South Whidbey Fire/EMS met to consider a resolution to place a fire levy lid lift on the August 4 Primary Election ballot.
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