Fire district preparing levy renewal for paramedics
SNOHOMISH - The levy that funds paramedic services for Snohomish Fire District 4 is set to expire at the end of the year, and the date to prepare a levy renewal is right around the corner, interim Fire Chief Ron Simmons said.
The current emergency medical services (EMS) levy, passed by district voters six years ago, provides about 20 percent of the fire department’s budget, fire commissioner Mark Hintz said. If the fire board were to let it expire, the department would lose about $1 million in funding.
The current levy rate is 35 cents per $1,000 assessed home value. The fire board has the option to raise the rate to the maximum rate of 50 cents allowed under state law. The commissioners at this time haven’t discussed raising the rate.
The levy’s renewal requires a simple majority. The fire board is shooting for the August ballot.
“If we did nothing, then in 2014 we’d be running short of the money needed to provide the same services,” Hintz said. “Obviously, if we’re underfunded, it would reflect a change in response times.”
The fire board must make one of three deadlines with the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in order to get the levy on the ballot. It’s likely that it’s too late to meet the deadline for the April 23 ballot, Simmons said. He said he hopes the board will be able to make a final decision in time for the August ballot deadline.
The three-member fire board had this topic scheduled twice but had to postpone the discussion due to a lack of quorum. The next meeting is scheduled for this week, and Simmons said he expects a decision then.
“The discussion of a possible failure of a levy and planning for contingencies has not been fully discussed yet,” Simmons said. “However, losing a major portion of our funding for the biggest part of our program will significantly alter the way we provide service.”
Fire District 4 paramedics were dispatched to approximately 2,400 calls in 2012, Simmons said.
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