Clallam County Fire District 2 places two measures on ballot

Levy lid lift, EMS levy ‘a big ask,’ fire chief says

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Fire District 2 has placed two propositions on the Aug. 6 primary ballot — a levy lid lift and a 10-year EMS levy — that would amount to a $312 increase in property taxes for those in the district who own a $300,000 home.

The levy lid lift, which requires a simple majority to pass, would increase from 96 cents to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, while the EMS levy, which requires a supermajority of 60 percent or more to pass, would go to 50 cents per $1,000.

Combined, the measures would cost $600 in taxes per year for the owner of a $300,000 home.

Fire Chief Jake Patterson said in a public meeting last week that these levies are “a big ask.”

“But we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t feel it was absolutely necessary,” he said.

The money raised would help fund regular operations in line with the rising cost of inflation and help the fire district deal with an increased call volume, Patterson said.

Since 2011, the fire district has seen a 103 percent increase in calls, he said, predicting call volume will increase.

Fire District 2 provides a services to about 85 miles of Clallam County. They include emergency medical services, wildland fire protection, rope/high-angle rescue, swift water rescue and community risk reduction.

These services are sustained by a budget of about $2.4 million. This is mainly brought in from the district’s regular levy, which funds about 82 percent of the budget, or just over $2 million.

Ambulance transport billing brings in another 13 percent of the budget, and combined other funding brings in the remaining 5 percent.

The fire district does not receive regular funding from Clallam County or state or federal governments.

Under state Law, the fire district’s levy can only increase 1 percent per year without voter approval.

That 1 percent increase does not keep up with the rate of inflation, Patterson said.

He added that the regular increase won’t even cover the insurance premium’s inflation between 2023 and 2024.

That, mixed with inflation, means the amount the levy is bringing in is constantly decreasing. In 2021, the levy was bringing in $1.36 per $1,000 of assessed value. Now, it’s only bringing in $0.96.

The levy lid lift on the ballot would both raise the levy this year and allow it to increase for the next five years above the traditional 1 percent per year, in line with the consumer price index. It is designed that way so the fire district doesn’t have to return to voters for the next five to seven years, Patterson said.

If it passes, the fire district hopes to refill the vacant deputy fire chief position, sustain funding for a volunteer training coordinator, sustain funding for current full-time staff and fund other projects.

The EMS levy is set at the state maximum of 50 cents per $1,000 and would fund the hiring of additional staff, establish a capital purchase fund for replacement of larger EMS items, fund EMS supplies and equipment, sustain funding for current staff and more.

Additionally, it would establish a program where ambulance transfer out-of-pocket costs for residents of the fire district would be written off.

Clallam County Fire District 2 is the only advanced life support trauma-verified agency in the county that does not have an EMS levy or Medic 1 utility, Patterson said.

If the propositions don’t pass, the fire district plans to place them before voters again, Patterson said. If it doesn’t pass a second time, the fire district will face a reduction of money for the replacement of capital projects. Eventually, there will be reductions in staff. Service cuts may follow.

Patterson said there also is a “legitimate concern” that the fire district will not be able to maintain its advanced life support program if the levies don’t pass.

The fire district has considered alternative funding methods, such as looking for grants. Over the past 10 years, it has received about $1.5 million in grants. However, it is competing for limited grant money with much larger agencies who have people on staff dedicated solely to grant writing, Patterson said.

To learn more about the propositions, email Patterson at jpatterson@clallamfire2.org or call 360-457-2550.

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Reporter Emma Maple can be reached by email at emma.maple@peninsuladailynews.com.

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