Voters in the Evergreen Fire District have until April 10 to vote on their special mail ballots whether to increase funding for Evergreen Fire Rescue.
Ballots were mailed on March 21 to residents within the fire district.
The proposed levy, which the Evergreen Fire District Board of Trustees approved on Jan. 29, requests about $1,155,000 in the first year to pay for staffing and equipment needs. Each year after, the permanent levy would increase by 3 percent to adjust for inflation.
A relatively new service, Evergreen Fire Rescue began providing emergency medical services to the Evergreen community in 2006. It began with volunteers, and eventually the revenue from the emergency medical services subsidized wages that allow personnel to staff the station 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 2014, voters in the fire district approved a five-year levy providing about $145,000 per year, which is set to expire June 30, 2019. If the proposed levy passes, the previous levy will expire immediately.
As it currently stands, the tax revenue the station receives can only pay for salaries for the chief, marshal and administration assistant. In the last 10 years, emergency calls in the fire district have increased 224 percent, with 2,645 calls in 2017 and a projected 3,000 in 2018.
If the levy passes, the fire station could staff four personnel — two paramedics and two EMTs all cross-trained in firefighting — all day every day, as well as increase the wages for current employees to avoid more turnover. Levy funds would also provide benefits for the firefighters.
The money would also pay for equipment upgrades. The National Fire Protection Association’s standard for ambulance replacement is seven years, and Evergreen Fire Rescue’s eldest ambulance is old enough to vote. The four ambulances are 18, 17, 7, and 2 years old, respectively.
Ladder trucks should be replaced every 20 years, and the station’s is 22 years old. All of the Evergreen wildland firefighting trucks qualify for replacement, as do the command and utility vehicles.
If the levy does not pass, the station predicts delayed response times due to inadequate staffing, as well as more inexperienced personnel as the employee turnover continues due to low wages. The district would also have to rely on other agencies for overlapping calls.
The addition of 70.63 mills requested by the levy would affect taxable properties in the Evergreen Fire District. Taxes on a $100,000 home would increase by $84.23 per year and by $168.46 per year for a $200,000 home.
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