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Arlington EMS levy may be headed back to voters

ARLINGTON — The city of Arlington’s proposed permanent emergency medical services levy looks to be heading back to the voters next year.

Barbara Tolbert, who served as campaign manager for the EMS levy on the Nov. 2 ballot, believes that voters might not have understood that the proposed permanent EMS levy would not constitute a new tax assessment, but rather, a continuation of the current assessment rate.

“Currently, we have to vote to renew the EMS levy every six years,” Tolbert said. “If this levy were to be passed, it wouldn’t add a new tax of $125 for a $250,000 home. Instead, it would maintain a rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation each year. It’s not an increase.”

The proposed permanent levy would replace the existing levy that’s set to expire at the end of 2011. Tolbert noted that these levies, along with transportation fees, are the only sources of funding for EMS services, including ambulances and paramedics, in the area. She added that the Arlington Fire Department provides EMS not only for the city of Arlington itself, but also for the Arlington Heights, Oso, Silvana and Darrington fire districts.

“The impacts of this funding are felt all across the valley,” Tolbert said. “EMS calls are increasing every year and EMS personnel are being very efficient with these funds in the face of a growing need.”

An estimated 80 percent of the Arlington Fire Department’s more than 3,000 calls in 2009 were medically related. Tolbert sees the proposed permanent levy a cost-saving measure, since monies that would otherwise be spent on levy elections could be channeled instead into EMS training and equipment.

The proposed EMS levy on the Nov. 2 ballot received 3,400 votes, or 59.29 percent of the vote, in favor of passing the levy, and 2,335 votes, or 40.71 percent of the vote, that were cast against the measure. This fell only 41 votes short of the required 60 percent super-majority that would have passed the levy.

Tolbert expects the proposed permanent EMS levy will appear on the April 26 ballot next, which would require the Arlington City Council to pass a resolution 45 days prior.

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