Community Police & Fire

Fire district seeking levy lid lift for emergency medical services

Posted on November 1st, 2022 By:

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One is asking voters to maintain funding to respond to serious illnesses and injuries.

Passage of the six-year emergency medical services levy in the Nov. 8 general election would renew an existing tax, not add a new one, said Fire Chief Dennis Doan.

It would fund paramedics certified in advanced life support. They’re trained to start intravenous lines, administer medications, provide advanced airway management, interpret EKG readings of heart attack patients and provide other lifesaving care.

The EMS levy would also cover ambulance transport costs that exceed what insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid pay.

Emergency medical responses comprised 78% of GHF&MO calls in 2021. There were 12.4% more through the first six months of this year than during the same period in 2021.

It would cost the average homeowner $52 per year

The lid lift renewal would cost the owner of an average $865,753 Gig Harbor Peninsula home about $52 per year, at 6 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The measure is not to be confused with a 20-year, $80 million construction bond approved by 66.1% of voters in the August primary election. That is costing the typical homeowner about $206 per year (23.8 cents per $1,000 of value) in taxes.

“I had somebody stop me at my mailbox the other day who thought they just voted on this,” said Doan. “The bond is separate, and is for buildings. The levy runs our operations.”

The lid lift would allow the fire district to collect the full 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value that voters established for emergency medical services.

Each year as property values rise, that 50-cent rate generates more and more money. The state, however, limits tax increases to 101% of the previous year’s take. When the district’s 50-cent rate exceeds the state’s 101% cap, the rate must be reduced.

Rate would remain 50 cents per $1,000 up to 6% state cap

The lid lift would allow collection of the full 50-cent rate in 2023 and either the 50-cent rate or 106% of the previous year’s total, whichever is smallest, in succeeding five years. GHF&MO has now exceeded the 106% limit in its current lid lift because of increasing property tax values, forcing it to reduce the rate this year to 44 cents per $1,000. If the lid lift were to fail, the rate would drop to 39 cents in 2023.

“Imagine any business running on 1% more than the last year, with labor costs, fuel prices … ,” Doan said. “We have the same purchasing needs everybody else has. When you need to repair a fire engine or pay labor costs, imagine running a business on only 1%.”

It’s a hassle to run a levy lid lift renewal on the ballot every six years instead of locking in the 50-cent rate long term, but it gives the public a chance to weigh in.

“I hate to have to come back to voters every six years,” Doan said, “but looking at it in a different light, I have to do a good job and it gives the voters a little more control. They can say no, but if they do, they’re telling me they want less services.”

Lid lift coming to ballot next year for fire side

The district also receives $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to fund its firefighting operations. It will ask voters to renew that levy lid lift next year, Doan said.

Proceeds from the construction bond passed in August will be used to build a new live-fire training facility adjacent to Station 58 and the district headquarters on Bujacich Road; to build a new Station 51 on Kimball Drive; and for major renovations to Station 58, Station 53 on Fox Island, Station 57 on Crescent Valley Drive and Station 59 in Artondale.