Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue is considering asking voters to approve a bond to improve facilities that would take effect after an old bond retires at the end of this year.
Capital items like stations, fire engines, and ambulances are funded through bonds. Currently, the district has a bond for apparatus that will be paid off at the end of 2020. CKFR Fire Chief John Oliver said the timing on this newly proposed bond is strategic and deliberate in consideration of the tax impacts to citizens.
“We can address our facility needs for the next 50 years while reducing impact to taxpayers,” he said. “This is a rare opportunity, which is why we’re having this conversation with our community now.”
Currently, none of CKFR’s stations are up to seismic standards. Engineers have identified several stations that would be in danger of collapsing even in the event of a small earthquake. Several stations are also located significant distances away from populated areas, increasing emergency response times.
“This could jeopardize the ability of personnel to respond to emergency calls during such an event,” a CKFR release states.
The district also recently welcomed 11 new firefighters this year in response to increasing call volumes and retirements. The positions are funded out of the district’s operations levy paid through property taxes. CKFR funds daily operations through two levies. One is a fire levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The other is an emergency medical service levy at $0.50 per $1,000. A small portion of revenue is also raised by reimbursed costs for ambulance transports.
Another issue the district is dealing with is improving the health and safety of firefighters. Cancer is a leading cause of death for emergency personnel and the current stations lack effective exhaust removal systems and decontamination areas that reduce firefighter exposure to carcinogens and infectious diseases, according to the release. Many stations also do not have modern fire and life safety systems such as security cameras, commercial fire alarms, and sprinklers.
The Board of Fire Commissioners will hold a public hearing March 23 to take community input on the idea of a facilities bond. If the board decides to place a bond on the ballot and it’s approved by voters, taxpayers would see a net decrease in taxes they pay to the district in 2021 compared to 2019. This is due to the maintenance and operations levy expiring and the apparatus bond being paid off.