To the editor:
We face a critical vote this election in the South Whidbey Fire/EMS levy lift proposition, a request by our local fire district to raise property taxes by 15 cents per $1,000 valuation, an average increase of $45 annually for a $300,000 house. Twenty-three years ago when the last levy increase occurred, voters approved $1 per $1,000. Since 1989, inflation has eroded that $1 to an effective rate of 61 cents. If voters approve the levy lift now on the ballot, the fire district tax rate will increase to 76 cents, much less than the $1 rate approved by voters in 1989.
But if we don’t agree to the 15 cent increase, your fire district will be forced to make tough decisions which will mean:
Service cut backs, creating increased response times for emergency medical calls, fires and downed trees. The result: All of us will lose — the public and our first responders.
No purchase of a ladder truck to replace the 32-year-old vehicle recently scrapped. A truck mounted ladder enables firefighters to aim hoses at second- and third-story fires more easily. Without a ladder truck, our district will be down rated by the state which will result in increased insurance premiums for home and business owners.
Delay replacing two fire trucks and two EMT vehicles: While the district can forgo purchasing new equipment, the cost to maintain the old increases and reliability decreases, which potentially can increase response times.
Closing one fire station: While a long-term possibility, we should approve the 15 cents now. If not, the district will have to dismiss volunteers who report there, and that will result in longer response times for us all.
In today’s difficult economic times, I understand it’s difficult to contemplate any increase in taxes. But the South Whidbey Fire/EMS levy lift proposition is an exception because it is essential. We insure our homes, our cars and our lives. So consider the 15 cents a form of life and fire insurance by giving our fire district the funds it needs to support our EMS and firefighters. If we do, they will continue to be there when we need them.
I invite you to join me in voting “Yes” for the South Whidbey Fire/EMS levy lift.