Votes spark six-year EMS levy renewal

POULSBO — The Poulsbo Fire Department asked, and Little Norway citizens answered.

To the request for renewal of the six-year emergency medical services (EMS) levy, voters responded with a resounding ‘yes.’

Nearly 74 percent of balloters — 4,634 out of a total 6,276 according to the Kitsap County Auditor’s office — gave the go-ahead for the levy’s renewal. It was set to expire at the end of this year.

The levy makes up roughly $1.1 million, or 22 percent, of the department’s $7.1 million budget. It provides emergency medical service supplies, training and equipment, and will allow Poulsbo Fire to maintain its existing number of paramedics.

The vote needed a 60 percent majority to pass.

Fire Chief Jim Shields said strategic planning has already begun, and the department is now looking at purchasing a new medical unit, as well as staffing needs. The renewal of the levy, he said, will ensure the department can operate and grow with Poulsbo into the future.

“We’re pleased with (the community’s) confidence in the department and their continued support,” he said.

Poulsbo Fire spokesperson Jody Matson said after ballots were counted Wednesday the atmosphere in the department was a cheerful one.

“We’re all elated here,” she said. There were “a lot of smiles, a lot of high fives and handshaking. It was really a team effort.”

Members of the department went door-to-door before the vote to express the importance of the decision. Emergency medical calls make up about 67 percent of the approximately 3,900 calls the department responds to each year.

“We feel so grateful for such a strong support from the community,” she said. “That just feels really good.”

Ballot counts will be certified on June 4.

Poulsbo Fire receives funding from two property taxes: the EMS levy and the fire operations levy, which brings in about $4.8 million. An increase in the fire operations levy was recently given the green light by voters, allowing the department $1.29 per $1,000 assessed property value — up from 80 cents. Combined, the two levies equal 83 percent of the department’s funding.

The EMS levy has been approved by voters since 1979. In 2002, it was passed at 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, but that amount was shifted down to 30 cents because of an increase in property values. This levy renewal brings that amount back up to 50 cents.

Poulsbo fire staffs 49 personnel, with about 15-20 volunteers.

Matson said for Shields, who will retire next month after 39 years of service, the success is especially sweet. Heading out the door, he can rest easy.

“He knows we’re taken care of for a while,” she said.

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