District pushes for fire levy lift

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue District Chief Marv Koorn said members of the department are beginning their final push to make voters aware of the need to pass the levy lift lid that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Local residents should expect to see more signs in yards and volunteers going door-to-door in neighborhoods to get the word out as the clock winds down to election day.

The district’s original proposal, that would have raised the levy from 64.7 cents to $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, was overwhelmingly defeated by voters 70 percent to 30 percent in the Feb. 19 election.

Since then, the district has slightly scaled back its request for a levy lift to just over a 32 cent increase to about 97 cents per thousand.

If approved, the levy would put approximately $700,000 into the district’s budget coffers.

“We need this money to be able to continue the same level of service we’ve been providing,” Koorn said.

With the cost of operations raising every year and the district being able to increase the tax rate by only 1 percent, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue is facing a serious budgetary dilemma.

“Ten years ago, we spent approximately 60 percent of the taxes we received on operations and the other 40 percent went to equipment,” Koorn said. “Last year, 93 percent of the revenue received was spent on operations alone.”

By law, the district is allowed to increase taxes by 1 percent a year without a vote of the people. Koorn said that amounts to approximately $13,000 in increased revenue.

“With the rising costs, it’s tough for us to keep up with what’s going on out there,” he said. “At a 1 percent increase per year, between the years of 2002 and 2008, our tax revenue went up by just over $60,000.”

Koorn said the district has saved money in some areas by cutting out a couple of engines and having fewer volunteers today than there once were, but they are still falling behind.

“It’s a struggle to keep things up with the amount of revenue we receive and this is the reason we need the levy lift lid,” he said.

Koorn said as near as district officials and firefighters are aware, things are going well with the revised proposal.

“We haven’t heard anything negative so far,” he said. “I think the reason the proposal was defeated before was that people misunderstood what was on the February ballot. They thought we were asking for a $1 per $1,000 increase.”

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