Fire districts to hold public meetings to discuss levy lid lifts | Corrected

North and South Whidbey fire districts will be holding public meetings to discuss levy lid lifts next week.

The North Whidbey Fire and Rescue is considering asking voters for an increase of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value during the upcoming general election in November. That would be an extra $45 a year in property taxes for the owner of a $300,000 house.

Commissioners for the fire district will take public comment during its 6:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, July 14, at Station 25 at 2720 Heller Road.

Chief John Clark, who was appointed to the position earlier this year, said because Island County is currently in Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 reopening plan, the meeting will be held in person but limited to 50 people. The meeting will also be live streamed through video conference for anyone unable to attend. More details will be available July 11 at www.nwfr.org.

Clark said the increased funding from the levy lid lift would be used to replace two fire engines, outdated radio equipment and self contained breathing apparatuses. It would not be used to hire additional personnel, he said.

He said the annual increase to operational costs are outpacing the levy increases. Over the years the cost for repairs and maintenance have been increasing by about 3 to 5 percent per year while the local levy increases about 1 percent per year.

“At a certain point you can’t balance that,” Clark said.

Tuesday’s meeting will also be used to discuss the establishment of a citizen advisory committee of six to eight North Whidbey residents or business owners who would help determine what the public wants from the fire district in terms of fire protection.

North Whidbey residents who are unable to attend or wish to ask questions beforehand are encouraged to call Clark at 360-675-1131 or email him at chiefclark@nwfr.org.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS’s request for a levy lid lift will be on the Aug. 4 primary ballot. The district is seeking a 30 cent increase per $1,000 of assessed property value. That would amount to an extra $90 a year for the owner of a $300,000 house.

The fire commissioners meeting will be held virtually at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15 with a second meeting happening on July 23 at the same time. South Whidbey Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Palmer will give a presentation and answer questions.

Palmer said in a press release that if passed, 7 cents of the levy lid lift would fund apparatus replacement and the remaining 23 cents will go towards hiring eight full-time firefighters.

“This is about meeting the demand for emergency services, first and foremost,” Palmer said. “It also will improve our community insurance rating and help us continue the tradition of volunteering at our fire department.”

Residents who wish to attend the July 15 meeting may connect by visiting global.gotomeeting.com/join/512179965 or calling 571-317-3129 and using access code 512-719-965#. Those who wish to attend the July 23 meeting may connect by visiting global.gotomeeting.com/join/213585021 or calling 646-749-3129 and using access code 213-585-021#

South Whidbey residents who are unable to attend or wish to ask questions beforehand are encouraged to call Palmer at 360-321-1533 or email him at chief@swfe.org.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the NWFR would use funds from the levy to hire additional personnel. The levy funds will not be used to hire addition personnel.

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