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Arlington voters likely to see EMS levy in November

Paramedic firefighter Paul Hunsaker shows off the inside of an ambulance at the Arlington Fire Department Station 1 Wednesday, Feb. 3. - Adam Rudnick
Paramedic firefighter Paul Hunsaker shows off the inside of an ambulance at the Arlington Fire Department Station 1 Wednesday, Feb. 3.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Local property owners could have a chance this fall to back or reject an emergency management services levy if a citizens committee garners City Council approval.

The committee, called the Citizens for Emergency Medical Services, is soliciting support to put a permanent EMS levy ballot measure on the Nov. 2 general election.

If approved by voters, the levy would charge tax-payers $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to maintain current levels of service, said Barb Tolbert, committee chair.

“We want to live in a community that provides essential services when we need them,” Tolbert said. “We want to make sure the message is very clear and make sure citizens understand what we’re looking for.”

Property owners currently pay $0.39 per $1,000 of assessed value for the current EMS levy, which will expire Dec. 31.

That levy, passed in 2004, was originally set at $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, but the collection amount has eroded over time due to Initiative 747, Tolbert said.

The current EMS levy pays for emergency medical technician and paramedic wages, training, supplies, apparatuses and support vehicles, Tolbert said.

“Eighty percent of what the department responds to is EMS-related,” said Doug Schmidt, medical services administrator. “The levy is incredibly important to paramedics and EMTs.”

Schmidt said that emergency medical services personnel responded to more than 3,000 calls during the past year.

Election costs is one of the primary reasons for the committee to recommend a permanent levy, she said.

Putting a levy measure on the ballot costs organizers and the city between $35,000 and $40,000, she said. Another $6,000 to $12,000 is also required for a campaign.

Having a permanent levy would also give the city a clearer projection of what their annual yearly budgets would be, Tolbert said.

Tolbert discussed the possible levy with City Council members during a Jan. 25 work session. The Council could approve a resolution later this month to put the levy on the November ballot.

“We’ve been talking a lot about renewing it,” city of Arlington spokesperson Kristin Banfield said about the expiring levy. “This isn’t a big surprise to the Council — they’ve spent a lot of time on the proposal.”

If approved for the November election, the levy would require a 60-percent supermajority to pass.

Fourteen of the 33 Snohomish County EMS agencies have established permanent EMS levies. Those levies can be six year, 10 years or permanent.

Tolbert said 80 percent of the EMS budget for Arlington would be eliminated if a levy is not passed.

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