Historically, South Whidbey Fire/EMS has relied on volunteers to respond to calls and they are the backbone of this organization. During the last recession, we lost 30 percent of our emergency responders. Since that time, we’ve maintained the number of volunteers. However, call volumes have increased an average of 10 percent per year, 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.
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 out of the fire district’s control ranging from 2.5-17 percent in most budget areas.
Aging apparatus also is an issue. The fire district’s community insurance rating was downgraded last year as a result of staffing and apparatus deficiencies. This rating is linked to how much home and business owners pay in insurance premiums.
The fire district is considering 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.
Funding would be used to hire up to eight full-time firefighters to improve response times. It also means more trained emergency medical technicians to serve our aging population. A portion of the revenue also will be used to pay cash for replacement apparatus as opposed to financing these purchases, which costs taxpayers more. Once these improvements are made, the fire district will ask that its insurance rating be re-rated.
There will be community meetings in the spring to take public input about the fire levy lid lift. We hope you will participate in the discussions, and appreciate you considering our request. Chief Rusty Palmer also is available to answer questions anytime at (360) 321-1533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Langley, WA – The Board of Fire Commissioners for South Whidbey Fire/EMS met to discuss the 2020 Budget for the agency. Topping the list of discussion items were challenges to service, increasing costs due to inflation, and replacing aging apparatus. The fire district...