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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Nov. 28, 2023

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East County Fire and Rescue asking voters to support tax hike

Fire district: Calls have increased 52 percent since 2007

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter

East County Fire and Rescue is asking voters in its area to consider lifting the cap on a property levy that would return the tax to a previous level.

The fire department said in a statement that lifting the levy lid would revert it back to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value — the rate in 2008.

Chief Mike Carnes said in a news release that the request is not just about asking taxpayers for more money.

The increased funding would be used to maintain the current emergency service level, keep facilities in working order, improve training and repair equipment, Carnes said.

“These items are necessary to maintain the community’s insurance rating, which affects the insurance premiums that home and business owners pay,” the fire department said in the news release.

The proposal will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, and if passed, would increase the cost by 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value — $7.87 per month for the owner of a $450,000 home.

Since 2008, the levy rate has declined to $1.29, which happens as property values rise to limit the fire district to roughly the same amount of revenue per year, Carnes said in the news release.

The fire district said it has pursued ways to save taxpayers money since the levy lid was put in place, including improving its insurance rating with the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau, using volunteers for some of its services and applying for grants to pay for equipment.

“We have done everything possible to delay the need for a fire levy lid lift,” Carnes said in the news release. “However, call volumes have increased to the point that this is our only recourse.”

The fire district reports that emergency call volumes have increased 52 percent since 2007. It is allowed a 1 percent revenue increase per year by law but that amount is not keeping up with the cost of inflation, estimated at 3 to 4 percent annually.

Driving the expenses are increases in utility costs, hikes in health insurance for employees and more expensive training, according to the fire district.

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Columbian Breaking News Reporter