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Fire districts asking voters to autorize levy 'lid lift'

Fire districts 12, 20 and 22 - who have banded together as the Tri-District - are asking voters to approve a "lid lift" Tuesday to return funding to previously approved levels.

The fire levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value approved by voters in earlier ballots has dropped to $1.37 due to regulations governing how the county and state collect their portion of property taxes. The Tuesday vote would restore that money to the fire district's budget.

If approved, Proposition 1 would cost to each homeowner 13 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $13 a year for a $100,000 home.

The Tri-District serves much of the Pierce County portion of the Plateau, but does not include those inside the Buckley or Carbonado city limits.

The money is needed, the district says, to offset the rising costs of medical supplies, fuel and health insurance, and provide emergency services.

to an ever-growing population.

According to district records, the number of emergency calls has increased 26 percent in the last five years. Crews answered approximately 3,000 calls last year alone.

Across the state, fire departments are limited by Initiative 747 to a budget growth rate of 1 percent a year, said East Pierce Fire Chief Dan Packer, yet costs have increased by nearly 10 percent annually. A lid lift would restore the levy rate and help cover some of those costs.

"We are seeing costs rising much faster than our budget can keep pace with under the new limits set by I -747," Packer said. "We are asking citizens to return our funding to the previously authorized amount."

The districts have been aggressive in seeking grant funding for needed equipment and training, Packer said.

"We have been good stewards of large capital items and are living within our means," he noted. Unfortunatley, overhead expenses that cannot be avoided continue to rise.

Equally important, according to Fire District 20 Chief Jake Doty, is the need to continually improve services to a burgeoning community.

"There are two main priorities in our business," he said. "First is 9-1-1 response; making sure enough responders arrive at an incident as quickly as possible. The second priority is prevention; educating the public on how to prevent fires, injuries and illness so that 9-1-1 calls are reduced."

For more information about the lid lift, contact any of the three district headquarters.

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com

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