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Ask questions about levy lift

Ahead of the general election in November, South Whidbey Fire/EMS will host two meetings about its levy-lift request.

Commissioners of the South End’s fire protection district are seeking a 15-cent increase to the property tax levy. Anyone with questions about the levy increase may attend the meetings at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 13 and Oct. 11 at the Freeland station located at 5535 Cameron Road.

The levy, commissioners said, is necessary to keep the fire and emergency service agency’s operations at its current level. Over the past two years, South Whidbey Fire/EMS’ budget decreased by almost $200,000 as property values declined. It forced the department to find efficiencies and cuts, like heating and lighting in the stations and reducing the amount of driving its salaried staff do for non-emergencies.

At 61 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, an approved levy lift would push the rate to 76 cents. A property worth $250,000 would pay $190 per year for fire protection services.

Another cut from the revenue dip has been volunteer firefighter training. South Whidbey Fire/EMS is a volunteer firefighter district, with a handful of salaried staff of deputy chiefs and Fire Chief Rusty Palmer. More than

75 volunteers are active from Freeland to Clinton, which fire district officials said saves taxpayers more than $1.15 million per year.

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