At the regular meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners on April 18, the Board adopted resolutions to place two propositions on the Aug. 1 primary election.
Proposition One: To lift the Fire Protection Levy Lid back to the previously approved $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Proposition Two: To maintain the EMS Levy Lid at the current $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The current Fire Protection Levy fell from the $1.50 rate last year to $1.387 this year, due to the statutory requirement that limits property tax collection growth to 1 percent per year, unless adjusted by the voters. If these propositions fail, both levies will be limited to the 1 percent growth and the rates will decline even more.
Both propositions will set the rates to the maximum allowable for each specific levy and ask to maintain those rates for a four year period, limiting the collection growth to no more than 6 percent per year.
Chief Bud Backer stated that the 1 percent growth does not provide enough funding to maintain services, let alone try to improve them. With the rapid increase in call volume, the staffing shortfalls at East Pierce are being exacerbated. We have a need to increase staffing on fire engines to meet standards and improve efficiencies, as well as add a fifth medic unit to our system due to a 31 percent increase in EMS incidents since 2012.
Maintaining our collection rate at or near a total of $2 per $1,000 of assessed value for both Fire and EMS levies do not provide enough funding to address all of the district’s needs, but will allow the district to take incremental steps in doing so. Currently EPFR is collecting $1.887 per $1,000 of assessed value, which reduced the potential total collection by $1.3 million.
The district has also applied for a federal grant to hire nine firefighters, which again, only addresses a portion of our staffing needs, if we are awarded the grant.
“I understand that we are all upset with the recent revelations about ST3,” states Backer, “But to provide the service that you deserve, the district needs to ask for funding to work towards that goal.” Backer further explained that in the case of Fire District levies, funding generated from those levies are received and utilized locally to benefit our communities. . “What is collected here, serves here.”