Quilcene fire district may seek tax increase to save round-the-clock protection

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE –– Jefferson County Fire District No. 2 commissioners are considering asking voters in November for a property tax increase to prevent losing 24-hours-a-day fire protection.

“Really, without round-the-clock help, it's a gamble we'll have what we need to respond on hand,” Fire Chief Larry Karp said.

The Quilcene fire district now employs two firefighter/emergency medical technicians who are on duty in Quilcene 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to emergencies.

Without an increase of funding, the district will have to eliminate those two positions, which cost the district about $100,000 a year, Karp said.

District commissioners have called a community meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday in Quilcene Fire Rescue Station 21 at 70 Herbert St., to discuss a proposed increase to its property tax levy.

Karp said the district is considering a request that would raise the levy from its current 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value to $1.25 per $1,000.

“That's a significant number, we understand that,” Karp said.

“But they have been running in the red for at least the last five years, and can't afford to do that any longer.”

The fire district has $436,000 budgeted for operating expenses this year and will take in $255,000 in property taxes, Karp said.

Commissioners are scheduled to read a ballot proposal for the first time at its Station 21 meeting at 6 p.m. June 19.

Karp said the district hopes to have the initiative finalized in time to file with the Jefferson County Auditor's Office by the Aug. 5 deadline to be put on the fall ballot.

Homeowners could be faced with increased insurance costs without the round-the-clock staff, Karp said.

The district has 25 volunteers, he said, but only six EMTs and five firefighters live in Quilcene.

That could drop the district's fire rating from 8 to 10 on the Washington State Survey and Ratings Bureau's scale, which goes from 0 to 10.

“And at a 10, many insurance companies won't even write a policy,” Karp said.

Karp encouraged residents of the district to attend Thursday's meeting to discuss the district's finances.

For questions, contact Karp at the station or at 360-765-3333.

“We're always open to questions and constructive comments,” he said.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 09. 2014 7:56PM
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