Poulsbo, North Kitsap fire officials seek additional funds

A bond for Poulsbo Fire and emergency levy for North Kitsap Fire will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.

KINGSTON — North end residents will decide on Nov. 4 whether to give Poulsbo Fire and 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.

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.

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’s general obligation bonds, if approved, would be used for improvements to fire engines, medic units and other equipment, according to Commission Chairman Conrad Green.

A general obligation bond is a type of municipal bond, backed by taxpayers. The bonds would not exceed $2,745,000 and would be paid off in five years.

The bond would add 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to taxes, according to Poulsbo Fire Chief Jeff Griffin. That means property valued at $350,000 would pay an extra $67, he said.

If approved, the money from the first bond would be used to upgrade fire and life safety equipment, and make capital improvements to facilities in the district. Replacing fire engines past their 20-year life service would be among the top priorities, Griffin said. Rebuilding and fully outfitting three medic units is also a priority.

Other purchases included replacing three staff vehicles that tow equipment and transport staff and replace outdated fire gear.

The station headquarters in Poulsbo is also slated for repair. That work includes replacing the roof, repaving the parking lot and apparatus ramp, upgrading the heating and cooling systems, upgrading the bay doors, and installing an emergency generator. If there is not enough money earned from the bonds, the department would spend money on the projects deemed the most important.

Poulsbo Fire will collect $6,098,561 in tax revenue in 2014. Of that, $1,524,584 will come from an EMS levy, which is a six-year levy renewed in 2008.

Poulsbo Fire responded to 3,171 calls in 2013, according to the July 23 board of commissioners meeting minutes. That is a 2.49 percent increase over 2012.

The year-to-date responses made by Poulsbo Fire, as of July 23, was 1,644.