Opinion

Poulsbo’s EMS levy renewal not one to be ignored

TORRENS TALK

May 20 is the due date. That is when the ballots for the Poulsbo Fire Department EMS levy need to be postmarked. As the wife of an active volunteer, it is something that is important to me.

The levy will expire at the end of this year. If the levy is not renewed, the fire district will see their revenue reduced by approximately 22 percent. That is a large chunk of change to be absorbed.

The levy rate will be the one that was originally approved six years ago: 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Unfortunately, the levy rate has gone down every year thanks to Initiative 747. The levy now only provides 30 cents per $1,000. This means the district has had to absorb declining revenues while continuing to provide the same level of service.

The fact that the district has been able to do so without the public noticing any decline in services provided shows how well the district manages its finances. But, if the levy is not continued, then the public will assuredly notice the difference.

A valid question would be why is the district asking for the 50 cents if they’ve been able to do with 30 cents? The answer to that is if the district starts with 30 cents, they will be in the red long before the district could ask for another levy. Starting at 50 cents enables them to make it through the next six years even as the rate declines. The big question is will the public see the value in renewing the levy?

Nowadays, fire departments respond to far more emergency medical situations than to fires. That is why every firefighter in the department is an Emergency Medical Technician. This is in addition to the nine paramedics the department employs. So, no matter what call comes in, there will always be someone who can handle the initial medical situation. Given that brain death can occur in four to six minutes, it is paramount that qualified people are on the scene quickly.

In addition to well-trained people, there needs to be the equipment to do the job. And that is not an inexpensive proposition. Medic units cost about $170,000 apiece. The equipment that goes inside the ambulance costs more than $30,000.

All this can be provided for the very low cost of about $60 per year above the current levy rate for a $300,000 home. That is a very low cost for having someone show up at your door when you need help without delay.

With the current economic climate, people may feel disinclined to vote “yes” on the levy. That would be unfortunate. It would be a very shortsighted view. This is where the sum of the parts is truly greater than the whole. When everyone chips in with their share of the levy monies, the total amount the fire department receives is sizeable. The department then can provide something valuable and necessary to the public: emergency medical services.

The ballots have come in the mail. The department has done its part. It has put the levy out for your vote of support. They also have mailed out information and put it in the Herald so that residents can read for themselves about the department. The fire department is a public agency so its business is conducted in the open. If people have questions, they should just call the district and get them answered.

This is a levy renewal; it is not a new source of funding. It is one that has been supported by the community since 1990. This is not a streak to stop. Consider this: are your life and/or property worth the risk of keeping $60 in your pocket? Your answer will determine your vote.

Val Torrens appears Wednesdays in the CK Reporter.

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