Renewing levy crucial to maintaining emergency operations | Letter to the Editor

This November, the fire district is asking voters to renew a maintenance and operations levy. If approved, it would renew the expiring levy at the current, annual levels of approximately 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed property values through 2018.

As the chair of the East Pierce Fire and Rescue Board of Fire Commissioners, I want you to know what this levy means to our fire district—and what will happen to your service if it does not pass.

First, the proposed measure is a simple renewal of a levy that will expire at the end of this year. Renewing this levy is crucial to maintaining current emergency operations by helping to bridge a serious shortfall in revenues caused by the decreased property values. When property values fell, the fire district lost more than a quarter of its operating budget. District residents pay a rate of $1.50 per $1.000 of assessed value for fire services and 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for EMS services, plus the levy.

In addition to the loss of revenues, the demand for emergency services continues to increase, particularly for emergency medical services (EMS), further straining the system. Last year, East Pierce firefighter-paramedics and firefighter-EMTs respond to 8,519 emergency 911 calls. Of those, 74 percent were for EMS—an increase of 7.5 percent over 2012. This year, the fire district is already on track to break that record.

The district has significantly reduced operating expenses to cut costs. They have delayed replacing older fire engines and medic units, postponed vehicle and station maintenance, left positions vacant and slashed expenses from every segment of the organization’s budget. There’s no more room to cut.

If the levy fails, the fire district will be forced to make significant reductions that will impact their ability to provide the services you expect, including:

• Reducing the number of on-duty firefighter-paramedics and firefighter-EMTs;

• Eliminating fire engines and/or medic units in service—meaning fewer firefighters will be available to respond to your emergency and it will take longer to get there;

• Eliminating the capability of special operations teams, thereby reducing their ability to perform water rescues, technical rescues, hazardous materials response and wildland firefighting abilities;

• Leaving key positions vacant causing delays for fire prevention and public education needs;

• Reducing or eliminating public educational programs, such as life safety education efforts and first aid and CPR classes in local schools; and/or

• Reducing or eliminating staffing for special community events, high school football games, Relay for Life, sporting events and other high-risk events.

The fire district is asking the 88,400 citizens it serves in Bonney Lake, Sumner, Milton, Edgewood, South Prairie, Lake Tapps and the Ridge Communities to consider the emergency response these brave men and women currently provide and vote on Nov. 4.

For more information about the levy, go to www.eastpiercefire.org.

Dale Mitchell

Chair of the East Pierce Fire and Rescue Board of Fire Commissioners

Bonney Lake