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Voters approve Central Whidbey fire levy hike
Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue's levy-lid request appears to have passed, according to a first tally of votes.
Results posted on the Island County Auditor's Office website shows that 56.38 percent of voters approved the measure while 43.62 percent voted against. Approximately 30 ballots are left to count and the next batch of results will be released Feb. 28.
"I'm relieved it passed," said Tom Smith, chairman of Central Whidbey's board of commissioners. "We're just really appreciative of the support of the community."
The fire district, which includes about 10,000 residents, sought an increase of 34 cents to its existing levy. The current rate in 2012 is $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. With a new rate of $1.34, the total cost for a $300,000 home would be $33.50 per month or $402 annually.
Fire officials estimate the successful measure will result in an additional $510,000 a year. Part of the money will fund two new full-time positions, including a training captain who will focus on volunteer recruitment and retention.
In just under 20 years, volunteer levels at Central Whidbey have dropped by 70 percent, from 57 in 1993 to 17 this year, not including three new recruits in the academy. The problem has begun to affect the department's ability to respond effectively to multiple calls.
The other position funded will be a full-time firefighter who would also work as a mechanic, servicing the district's fleet of vehicles. A large portion of the money will also be set aside each year to fund the replacement of such apparatus.
Finally, the remainder of the money will be put toward maintaining existing service and staff levels. Failure at the polls would have meant the layoff of 10 part-time and one full-time district firefighters.
Fire Chief Ed Hartin said he also was relieved at the measures passage. He said he thinks it's evidence that voters believe the fire district is fiscally responsible.
Hartin also said he looked forward to putting the additional resources to use and providing the best possible service to Central Whidbey residents.
"The message to the community is thank you for your continued support," Hartin said.
According to the auditor's website, there are 5,622 registered voters in the fire district and Tuesday's first tally saw a 53.29 percent turnout. The final results will be certified Feb. 28.