SKFR levy vote a must for growing community | In Our Opinion

If there ever was a taxpayer-supported service in which residents get more than their money’s worth, it has to be the service provided by South Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

The agency’s fire-engine red vehicles are ubiquitous, as are its 72 career firefighters/EMTs, and approximately 50 volunteers and support staff. They’re just about everywhere: parades, civic events, the schools and conducting routine commercial business building inspections.

And, thankfully, they are nearby when you need them in an emergency. Often just a few minutes away, these well-trained public servants perform life-saving measures when a heart attack or other serious medical emergency strikes. Statistics from last year bear out their value; Firefighter/EMTs responded to 9,580 calls in South Kitsap, most involving medical emergencies. When 2017 ends, the number is expected to have surpassed 10,000 calls.

Despite our changing landscape, which has become more suburban, and an influx of new residents, SKFR has done an admirable job protecting homes and commercial structures from fire. But, alas, it hasn’t been easy.

A deep recession several years ago forced South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Steve Wright to make a number of difficult choices. Reduced funding forced reductions in staffing and fewer fire stations. Since then, the region has slowly climbed out of its difficult economic quagmire; now the challenge is in providing service for a district that’s in a steady growth mode. More residents and structures are straining SKFR’s capabilities. With a reduced budget that strained resources at current levels, growth has forced Wright to ask residents to decide just how important it is to have adequate firefighting and emergency medical protection in the district.

The demand by residents for a restoration of firefighter/EMT staffing levels and stations will require more funding. It’s that simple.

That’s why Proposition No. 1 is on your mail-in election ballot. It asks voters to renew the Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy and lift the taxation lid to its former allowable cap of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. This slight upward adjustment will restore revenue levels that ensure SKFR can rehire firefighters and re-staff two fire stations impacted by cutbacks in 2014.

For such a minimal account — on average, $5 more a month per median-priced home — South Kitsap home and business owners can be secure knowing fire and medical emergency services will keep up with growth in the southern end of our county.

Please vote to approve Proposition No. 1 on your election ballot. It will be money well spent.