Poulsbo Fire EMS Levy up for voters’ approval

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medical services levy will expire at the end of 2008.

POULSBO — The Poulsbo Fire Department will ask taxpayers to renew the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy in a vote this May.

The EMS levy expires every six years, and is in need of renewal at the end of 2008. Voters must approve the levy by 60 percent for it to continue.

The levy makes up about 22 percent of the department’s funding. In 2007, it brought in $1.1 million for emergency medical services, including the purchase of medical supplies, state-of-the-art equipment and medical training. It also allows Poulsbo Fire to maintain its existing number of paramedics and quality of service to citizens.

The levy has been approved by voters since 1979.

Poulsbo Fire Chief Jim Shields said the department receives funding from two property taxes, the EMS levy and the Fire Operations levy, which makes up $4.8 million of Poulsbo Fire’s total $7.1 million budget. Combined, the two equal about 83 percent of PFD’s total funding.

Poulsbo Fire is asking for the levy’s approval at 50 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value, which would cost the owners of a $300,000 home roughly $5 a month or $60 a year over the current 2007 levy rate, Shields said. The rate was bumped down to 30 cents per thousand because of increased property values.

Shields said the EMS levy is vital to the department’s operations.

“It takes both levies to make the system work,” he said.

Calling volumes have been on the rise. In 2006, the number of calls increased by 16 percent more than those made in 2005, and were the highest number throughout the entire county. Shields said with all the residential and commercial growth the area is receiving, calls are only going to continue to go up in number, and the EMS levy is a crucial key to making sure response times and the need for mutual aid don’t increase.

“We don’t feel that’s what the public wants nor has come to expect,” he said.

Fire Commissioner Conrad Green said funding is also important to keep “boots on the ground.”

“The reality is, no one ever wants to be a consumer of emergency services, but if we have an emergency, they can’t get there soon enough,” he said.

Poulsbo fire staffs 49 personnel, with about 15-20 volunteers.

Monies received from the Fire Operations levy support emergency fire and rescue response along with a wide variety of other services to the public, including a portion of the total cost of providing emergency medical response. Emergency medical calls make up about 67 percent of the approximately 3,900 calls the department responds to each year.

Poulsbo Fire covers roughly 52 square miles, from Port Gamble to Sandy Hook Road. It runs four stations, three of which are staffed full-time. The fourth is a volunteer-run station in Keyport.

The public is invited to attend informational meetings regarding the Poulsbo Fire Department and the EMS Levy. All meetings will be held at 7 p.m. at the following locations:

– Station 77 on Pioneer Hill on April 14

– Station 72 in Surfrest on April 21

– Station 71 Headquarters on State Route 305 on April 29

The vote is scheduled for May 20. For more information, call the Poulsbo Fire headquarters at (360) 799-3997.