The Fire District 44 board of commissioners is considering placing a levy on the April ballot, citing a significant loss of revenue in recent years.
“We have seen a loss of $1.2 million over the last several years,” said Chief Greg Smith, noting a coming reduction of nearly $284,000 for 2013. “We have reduced the budget and augmented operations through the use of emergency operating funds, reduced our support and admin staff by five positions and not replaced a vacant firefighter position,” Smith said. “It’s gotten to the point that we will be required to make some significant reductions and these will impact our ability to provide emergency services.”
Fire commissioners discussed the levy at their Tuesday meeting and will take final action on Feb. 26. That meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at district headquarters, 32316 148th Ave. S.E., and the public is encouraged to attend.
According to a press release issued by the district, the proposed levy would not replace the losses seen over the past several years, but would provide enough funding to prevent further cuts.
“We see this as an opportunity for the citizens to let us know what level of fire and emergency medical services they want,” said Commissioner James Farrell. “We want to hear from the public first, before we make more serious reductions to the budget that will affect our ability to provide emergency services. We don’t want to institute critical reductions without asking the public.
Fire District 44 is a combination department, using both career and volunteer firefighter/emergency medical technicians. The District has 19 career firefighters and an average of 75 to 100 volunteers, protecting 70 square miles out of eight fire stations. A career firefighter and captain are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide supervision and oversee the department resources in the evenings. The district responds to an average of 2,000 incidents each year, more than 70 percent of these being emergency medical-related.