Clark County Fire District 6 has a levy lid lift proposition on the upcoming Aug. 4 primary election ballot asking residents for the funds to maintain and improve fire protection and emergency medical services in its coverage area.
The proposition authorizes the fire district to restore its regular property tax levy to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, to be assessed in 2020 and collected in 2021.
If approved, the lid lift would fund additional personnel to respond to higher call volumes for fire and emergency medical service, improve firefighter training, make the district’s busiest fire station more resistant to earthquake damage, and add or replace aging apparatus.
The fire district provides service to more than 37 square miles — including Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek, Mount Vista, Felida and Lake Shore — and 75,000 people.
It reported a 12.9 percent increase in emergency call volumes for 2019 and a nearly 30 percent increase over the past five years.
“District 6 is not much different than any other area in the county right now. We’re growing exponentially, and in order to maintain a quality level of service, we need funding. It’s important to us to keep response times down. The faster we’re able to respond to a call, the safer it is for everyone involved, the people we’re helping and our staff,” Fire Chief Kristan Maurer told The Columbian.
Daily operations are currently funded through two levies paid through property taxes. The amounts are capped at the voter-approved rates of $1.50 for fire and 50 cents for EMS, per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Over time, the levy rates fall as property values rise to limit the fire district to the same amount of revenue per year plus a 1 percent increase allowed by law.
Voters returned the fire levy to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value through a lid lift in 2015. Since then, the fire levy has fallen to $1.16. The increase would cost the owner of a $350,000 home an additional $9.92 per month, according to the fire district.
Revenue could also backfill costs associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, Maurer said. The funding request is not a result of the pandemic. The district has had the need for additional revenue to respond to higher call volumes for years now. However, the reality of the pandemic is that it anticipates some of the funds will be used for this purpose.
“We’re applying for reimbursement from the federal government. That’s a hit to the budget we didn’t anticipate,” Maurer said.
The fire district has had two people write in favor of the levy in local media, and it hasn’t received any direct, negative feedback during an online presentation. The fire chief said the lack of comments about not wanting to support the prop is encouraging.