This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
Tax dollars support a multitude of public services, but none is more important than the emergency interventions of of local fire departments. When fires, heart attacks and car crashes threaten lives, speedy and professional responses are essential.
On Aug. 17, voters in four Pierce County fire districts will be asked to reaffirm their support for that response. Three districts’ ballot measures are simply renewals of existing levies to maintain current service levels; a fourth would increase a property owner’s tax in order to expand service. All deserve voter approval.
• The Lakewood Fire Department is seeking a one-year renewal of its current maintenance and operations levy, which costs $1 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, or $250 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home.
The levy is vital because it provides about 25 percent of the department’s budget. Passage would enable the department to continue providing the current level of fire and emergency medical response.
• South Pierce Fire & Rescue is seeking a six-year renewal of its current emergency medical services levy, which costs up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation – $125 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home.
The district estimates that nearly 80 percent of its emergency calls are for medical service. It does not charge district residents for emergency transport services. Renewing the levy will enable the district to continue providing that level of service.
• The Key Peninsula Fire Department has a similar EMS levy renewal on the ballot, only its measure would be for another 10 years. It would also cost up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The district projects that failure of the levy could force layoffs of at least 12 personnel – almost half the department. Eight paramedics, four firefighters and a receptionist could be lost. Currently the department provides 24-hour service. That coverage would be threatened by a levy failure.
• In Milton, a ballot measure for fire and emergency services would increase the current $1.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to no more than $3 per $1,000 in 2011. That amount would become the base for calculating levy limits through 2015.
Milton contracts for service with East Pierce Fire & Rescue, and the five-year levy would help equalize what Milton and East Pierce residents pay. It would also increase service to Milton residents to 24 hours per day.
That kind of service is worth paying for. Milton residents should approve the levy lift.
To read earlier endorsements, click here.