A measure to increase the Vancouver Fire Department’s emergency resources and improve community safety will be on the Feb. 8 special election ballot.
The Vancouver City Council unanimously approved the action Monday to include a measure that would increase the city’s property tax by 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Out of the potential property tax tools the council reviewed, this levy has the quickest turnout.
To put it into perspective, the owner of a $440,000 house would pay $18.33 per month beginning in 2023. If the voters approve the increased levy tool, it will generate about $15 million a year.
At a Nov. 22 council meeting, council members discussed the importance of getting the proposal on the ballot as quickly as possible. The commonality in their reasoning was to reduce community risk.
Facilities that don’t meet seismic standards could turn into rubble in the case of an earthquake, and limited resources do not coincide well with the city’s growing population.
If the ballot measure doesn’t pass in February, city staff will have more time to reassess its framework and present it again in the same election year.
Overall, $60 million would be invested in replacing Vancouver’s Stations 2 and 6, as well as remodels for Stations 4, 5 and 8 to meet efficiency standards. An additional $12.7 million would go toward more uniform and administrative staffing, operations, and new squad vehicle and ladder truck costs.
The funds would help the fire department improve emergency services, which do not fulfill the city’s adopted response time standards of 7 minutes and 59 seconds. This service level gap can be contributed to Vancouver’s rapidly evolving population, subsequent increased traffic congestion, and call concurrency.
Clark County Fire District 5 would pay $2.8 million a year for annual expenses and $14 million for capital resiliency costs. It is currently working toward getting a lid lift to cover its portion of the expenditures.