NKF&R EMS levy passes with flying colors

KINGSTON — North Kitsap Fire & Rescue Chief Paul Nichol was feeling a sense of relief Wednesday morning as he examined the results for the renewal of NKF&R’s emergency medical services levy.

North Kitsap voters overwhelmingly approved the proposal with 72 percent casting supporting ballots.

“We’re very pleased and very grateful. We took every effort we could to get the information to residents,” Nichol said. “It certainly appears most people did understand the EMS levy.”

The levy, something that has been in effect since the mid-1980s, will be renewed for six years starting in 2008 and increase to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, up from 33 cents per $1,000. The change will cost property owners an additional $2.48 a month per $175,000 assessed valuation — $29.75 annually.

“This is a partnership between us and the community,” said NKF&R public information officer Michéle Laboda.

NKF&R officials had expressed concern the recent levy lid lift voted into effect for the Poulsbo Fire Department in May would confuse residents, causing them to vote the measure down. It needed a 60 percent approval to pass.

About 2,817 voters approved the levy renewal, with 1,118 voting against the measure.

“We’re always concerned because we don’t know. We’re concerned if we’re not successful, that’s a 20 percent decrease in the funding we receive,” Nichol said. “Yes, we’re always concerned because you never know until the election... I don’t know anybody who stopped at the station, but we did get three to four phone calls with questions about the measure. That’s the area that creates the concern, we don’t hear a lot of anything... we’re never sure if we’re really understood.”

In this case, they were, as voters answered the call of the emergency response teams to continue funding the program. The EMS levy has to be renewed every six years, and Initiative 747 placed a 1 percent cap on property taxes that can be collected from property owners, dropping the funding collected to 33 cents per $1,000 assessed value since the last levy renewal.

Twenty percent of the total NKF&R budget is provided by the EMS levy, although 60-65 percent of NKF&R’s calls are medical responses. Laboda said the NKF&R fire trucks are equipped to serve as medical units as well, they just can’t transport injured people, which is why residents may see them responding to medical calls. Fire crews also provide additional assistance to the medics, who may need help moving citizens.

Nichol said the levy renewal will go into affect next year, and could result in NKF&R hiring one or two new employees to add to the EMS crews. Hiring wasn’t discussed during the lobbying process for the levy, he said, and could be something NKF&R decides on in the next few years.

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