CKFR considers raising levy rate back up

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue officials say additional staffing is needed to keep up with higher call volumes.

Calls for CKFR have been on the rise – increasing 35% in the last five years. In 2022, the district responded to 11,062 calls, of which 67% were for emergency medical services.

Revenue, however, is not keeping up with the demand for and costs to provide such services.

CKFR is considering asking voters to reset the levy rate from $1.34 to $1.50. The 16 cents per $1,000 increase would cost the owner of a $500,000 home (considered average for the area) an additional $80 per year or $6.67 per month.

“We want to be transparent with our community,” fire chief Jason Christian said. “We require additional emergency personnel to respond to higher call volumes and maintain the level and quality of our emergency response. We also need to replace apparatus to ensure service reliability when responding to calls.”

CKFR is considering asking voters for a levy lid lift sometime in 2024 to fund the following projects:

•Up to six firefighters over six years. That would allow the district to staff two additional stations (Lake Symington and Olympic View) 24 hours a day and reduce response times districtwide.

•Replace an ambulance.

•Refurbish up to three engines, saving taxpayers up to $2 million as opposed to buying new ones.

•Improve firefighter and paramedic training.

•Fund the CARES program to reduce non-emergency calls to 911 and improve service.

Together, the improvements would reduce emergency response times and improve service reliability across the district, officials said.

CKFR provides fire and life safety services to 74,800 residents over 115 square miles. The district’s emergency personnel provide services for fire suppression and prevention, EMS, technical rescue, hazardous material spills, vehicle accidents and extrication, and fire and life safety education programs.

The district’s daily operations are funded by a fire levy capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The levy funds emergency personnel, supplies, equipment and apparatus. Voters approved a fire levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 in 2019. Since then, the rate is projected to fall to $1.34 in 2024.

Levy rates fall as property values rise. That impacts the district’s ability to respond to higher call volumes. This is why, at times, the district asks voters to reset the fire levy to the previously approved amount of $1.50.

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