North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Marysville puts EMS levy on August ballot

 

Christopher Andersson

Marysville Fire District firefighter/EMT Ricky Williamson checks on the gurney from one of the district's emergency vehicles on April 27.

The Marysville public will vote on a Emergency Medical Services levy on this August's ballot meant to ensure the Marysville Fire District's services remain stable.

The Marysville City Council voted to put the levy up for a vote during their April 24 meeting.

The levy would raise the property tax rate for fire and emergency services to $0.50 per $1,000 assessed property value.

"We haven't gone out to reset the EMS [emergency medical services] levy since 2008," said Gloria Hirashima, chief administrative officer for the City of Marysville.

Rates tend to fall if no action is taken, she said. In 2008 the levy rate was around $0.50 per $1,000 but has fallen to around $0.38 per $1,000.

"Restoring the EMS levy will help the Marysville Fire District keep pace with the rapidly growing needs of our community," said Martin McFalls, Fire Chief of the Marysville Fire District.

Hirashima said that as part of the city looking at Regional Fire Authority possibilities, officials have realized a need to restore that EMS levy.

"We've been in the midst of a Regional Fire Authority committee, looking at the budget of the Marysville Fire District, and one of the things we've seen is that we are not collecting sufficient money for the services we are providing," said Hirashima.

It's necessary to raise the levy rate if the city and the Marysville Fire District want to keep the same level of service because current expenses are exceeding the revenue of the district.

"This levy would keep the fire services healthy," said Hirashima. "Basically what we want to do is maintain our current services."

According to Christie Veley, public education and information specialist with the Marysville Fire District, the majority of the district's responses are for emergency medical services or related incidents.

Those calls make up about 88 percent of the district's total calls, Veley said.

Veley also said that total call volume has increased by more than 43 percent since 2011. In 2016 the district received 13,861 calls, she said.

Hirashima noted that fire districts get basically all of their revenue from local property taxes.

"This is something that fire and emergency services rely on. Their revenue comes solely from property taxes," she said.

Hirashima said the Council will likely raise the levy some with it's own authority to do so as well.

"The City Council recognizes that there is some urgency in this," she said. "The Council is looking at using some of its banked levy to raise the levy rate as well, in addition to the public vote in August, so they're looking at all the mechanisms they can for this."

Because the City Council has passed on their ability to raise the levy in previous years, some of that authority has been "banked," or saved for later.

Hirashima said that the "banked" capacity will bring up the levy rate to around $0.44 per $1,000 of assessed value.

"And then the vote would be to get us to $0.50 per $1,000," she said.

She said the measure is written to automatically adjust for inflation and keep the rate around $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation until 2023, after which the rate would begin to drop again.

"It wouldn't go to zero or anything, but what will probably happen at that time is there would be some thought about going out for another levy," she said.

The levy measure will be on the primary ballot which will be on Aug. 1. Ballots are mailed 19 days before the election in Snohomish County.

 

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