With the April special election just around the corner, Bonney Lake and Sumner residents should be receiving their ballots by this weekend, and with them, a proposal from East Pierce Fire and Rescue to lift the lid on their EMS levy.
The levy lift measure was approved by East Pierce commissioners Feb. 16.
“I believe that in order for us to deliver quality service, and not do an M&O (Maintenance and Operations levy), that we really need to collect our maximum between the two levies,” East Pierce Fire Chief Bud Backer said.
The EMS levy currently collects 44.3 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property value, out of a maximum amount of 50 cents.
The levy lift measure will reset the EMS levy back to 50 cents for one year only if it is approved by a simple majority, or 50 percent, of voters.
East Pierce also has in place a fire levy that currently collects the maximum amount of $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value, which is why a fire levy lid lift is not on the ballot.
East Pierce estimates this six cent increase in the levy will result in an extra $620,000 in 2017.
Homeowners in Sumner and Bonney Lake with an assessed property value of $250,000 will pay roughly $1.25 more in property taxes per month, or $15 a year, if the measure passes.
For every additional $100,000 in assessed property value, homeowners can expect to pay an additional 50 cents more per month, or $6 a year.
Backer said at multiple commissioner meetings the money will be used to train paramedics in order to add a fifth medical unit to the Milton/Edgewood area down the road in two or three years, offset rising supply costs and cover election costs.
Fire departments like East Pierce and Fire District 28 in Enumclaw, which is also running a levy lift measure, are required by law to only collect 1 percent more in property taxes from the previous year.
However, property values have risen faster than 1 percent every year. This means EMS and fire levies across the state have depreciated in order to balance the equation.
The levy lift on April’s ballot will only affect East Pierce’s EMS levy for one year, which means the levy may begin to depreciate again in 2018. How much the levy depreciates will depend on how high property values rise.
Backer said he plans to place another levy lift on a 2018 ballot, so the fire department can again collect as much as it can from the EMS levy in 2019.
The department also plans to put a fire levy lift measure on a future ballot once that levy begins to depreciate.