South Whidbey Fire/EMS is asking voters for a property tax increase. Ballots for the Nov. 6 general election are hitting our mail boxes now.
The fire district’s board has been patient in asking for this increase of 15 cents per thousand of assessed value. The recession has eroded revenue each of the past few years while costs increase. Every taxing district and most individuals have seen this happen to their own resources, of course, but no one else is so directly responsible for the health and welfare of their community.
If approved by voters, the increase will bring the fire district’s tax rate to approximately 76 cents per thousand. This is well within reason. Central Whidbey fire district residents overwhelmingly passed a levy increase last February, boosting their tax rate from $1 to $1.34. They know the importance of a sufficiently funded staff of firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
South Whidbey is fortunate to still be largely served by volunteers and less dependent on paid staff than is Central Whidbey. Approximately 75 volunteers supplemented by a few paid staff responded to 1,867 calls last year. Most were of a medical nature, but there were also automobile and other accidents to respond to, as well as house fires, brush fires, storm response and community education efforts. On medical calls, South Whidbey’s highly trained EMS team is almost always first on the scene, stabilizing the victim until the Whidbey General ambulance arrives for transport.
Most of the fire district’s budgets now goes toward medical responses, partly due to our aging population. But the district’s six fire stations and equipment still need to be maintained and updated and volunteers need to be recruited and trained. It takes months of expensive training and testing to become a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS is always there within minutes after someone in an emergency situation dials 911. The word “hero” is bandied about loosely these days, but our volunteers are true heroes.
All they ask in return is a community thankful enough to give them the financial resources necessary to do their jobs. South Whidbey voters should be happy to vote “yes” on the levy proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. Your family’s welfare could depend on it.