North Kitsap fire officials seek additional funds

The north end department will put an emergency levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

KINGSTON — North end residents will decide on Nov. 4 whether to give North Kitsap Fire & Rescue more money for salaries, equipment and buildings.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue commissioners approved a resolution to ask for a property tax levy of $600,000 for four years. If approved, the levy would cost each property owner about 25 cents extra per $1,000 of assessed property value.

NKF&R would begin collecting money in 2015. The additional money would be collected until 2018.

“Due to the accumulated effects of declining property values over the past six years, the District cannot continue to maintain current service levels within the limitations of the District’s regular tax levy without additional revenue,” the resolution reads.

NKF&R’s operating revenue is estimated to total about $5.5 million in 2014.

The department has an EMS levy, which adds 50 cents to every $1,000 assessed property value and will bring in $1,204,133 in 2014. It also has a bond measure that will provide $511,257 in 2014.

Since the recession, the assessed property value in NKF&R’s jurisdiction dropped by 30 percent, according to information from spokeswoman Michele Laboda. NKF&R will receive $600,000 less than in 2009, according to Laboda.

In response to the dwindling funding, the department has left positions vacant, frozen wages, shared resources with other fire districts, deferred equipment replacement and more, according to Laboda.

“Essentially, [the levy is] restoring funds that have been lost and accumulating in their magnitude, since the economy took its downturn,” Laboda said.

The department has attempted to avoid asking taxpayers for help, Laboda said. But the economic recovery is taking too long.

“In order to continue providing the same level of service, we need to restore funding,” Laboda said.

If approved, Laboda said some of the funding could go toward replacing fire engines. Three of the department’s four fire engines are at least 20 years old, she said. They run well — because of the department’s maintenance crew — but replacement parts are difficult to find, she said.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue serves an estimated population of 18,418 in about 47 square miles. It employes 45 people.

In 2013, NKF&R responded to 2,565 calls.

Poulsbo Fire, on the ballot as Kitsap County Fire Protection District 18, will ask voters to approve a more than $2.5 million bond measure. If approved, the bond would increase taxes by 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.