Measure On August 2 Primary Election Ballot
WEST RICHLAND, WASH. – The Board of Fire Commissioners for Benton County Fire District #4 unanimously passed a resolution to place a lid lift for emergency medical service on the August 2, 2022 Primary Election ballot. Call volumes were up 22% in 2021 compared to the year before. EMS accounted for 62% of all calls the agency received last year.
“EMS is the service our community relies on most,” said Fire Chief Paul Carlyle. “Thanks to community support, we are able to provide the highest level of care possible with paramedics, which is called Advanced Life Support.”
Voters approved an EMS levy of $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2016. Levy rates fall as property values rise to limit a fire district to roughly the same amount of revenue per year plus a one percent increase allowed by law. This has caused the Fire District’s levy rate to fall to $0.35 per $1,000. EMS call volumes have increased 42% in the same time period.
Funding from the levy would be used to hire three additional firefighter/paramedics and emergency medical technicians to respond to emergency calls. This would put another medical unit in service and aid in responding to overlapping calls, which are increasing. If approved, the 15-cent lid lift would cost an additional $52.50 per year ($4.38 per month) for the owner of a home with an assessed value of $350,000.
“Our financial philosophy is to ask for incremental, small changes to reduce impacts to taxpayers,” said Chief Carlyle. “We ask for what is needed to maintain service levels, and are crystal clear about what we will deliver for your tax dollars.”
Benton County Fire District #4 is exploring alternatives to property taxes to fund emergency services. Some fire districts have a fire benefit charge, which is based on a structure’s size and risk of fire. Single family homes are charged less than larger commercial developments because it costs less to defend them in a fire. The issue is whether there is enough commercial or multi-family development in the Fire District to make it work. The Fire District plans on completing this study and reporting back to the community by the end of the year.
“We do not know if it will work for our fire district, but we’re looking at it,” said Chief Carlyle. “Anything we can do to reduce community frustration with property taxes is worth it in our opinion.”