To the editor:
I am currently a board member of the Bainbridge Island Fire Department (BIFD) but I am writing to you as an individual and not as a representative of the department. I am asking for your support of Proposition 1 to renew the Emergency Medical Services funding for the BIFD.
The current EMS levy expires on Dec. 31, 2019. Revenue generated from the current levy represents 26 percent of the department’s annual operating revenue. At the same time, 70 percent of all calls that the BIFD responds to are for EMS.
Please let me address and clarify two important points that I have heard discussed in the public discourse for this election:
The first is the desire of the BIFD to make the EMS funding stream permanent. Levies of this type are best suited for either varying or fixed-term expenses like a new building or equipment purchase — in the case of our EMS service, it is an on-going and a fairly stable and predictable expense.
Voting to make the EMS levy permanent will only mean that the Bainbridge Island Fire Department will not have to ask voters every 10 years to renew the funding that is so integral to the EMS services provided on Bainbridge.
When initially passed in 2009, the levy was new and a decision was made to have this funding stream validated by voters in 10 years. Now, the EMS funding has become indispensable as a result of the increase in staffing that has occurred in the last 10 years. This staffing increase has allowed for the staffing of the Phelps Road and Bucklin Hill stations full time, 24/7. It would not be possible to replace the lost EMS revenue from other sources.
The second question is why is the tax rate increasing from 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2019 to 40 cents per $1,000 in 2020?
The answer is quite simple. In order to avoid having to ask voters every three or four years for additional funds, as a result of statutory limits on annual increases for levies, the BIFD is asking for a rate reset now since they had to go to voters to renew the EMS levy anyway.
Without the levy reset, the fire department would have to return to voters in just a few years to reset the rate.
The department would prefer to ask voters as infrequently as possible. Passage of the EMS levy renewal at 40 cents would accomplish this goal. The net result of this increase is an additional $40 of taxes on a $500,000 home or $60 on a $750,000 home, which is, in my opinion, a small price to pay for the services provided.
The level and quality of emergency medical service on Bainbridge Island is excellent and I believe should be continued. I encourage voters to visit the department’s website, www.bifd.org, for additional information or to contact the Department directly.
Vote YES for EMS!