Board of Fire Commissioners passes resolution on fire levy lid lift – July 11, 2017

Ballot measure planned for November

 CAMANO ISLAND, WA — The Board of Fire Commissioners for Camano Island Fire and Rescue passed a resolution asking voters to approve a 25-cent fire levy lid lift during the November General Election. If approved by voters, funding would be used to hire two firefighters to reduce response times, replace aging apparatus, and maintain facilities.

Call volumes have increased almost 29% in five years for CIF&R, and Fire Chief Michael Schick says that the agency is starting to struggle. The fire district is limited to a 1% revenue increase per year by law, but the cost to provide service is often higher than that. More calls mean added costs for personnel, apparatus, maintenance, fuel, equipment, and other supplies.

“We’ve been talking with our community about the challenges we are facing, such as increasing response times,” said Chief Michael Schick. “They understand that the demand for service is outpacing the revenue we have to provide it.”

Increasing population on the island and skyrocketing call volumes prompted CIF&R to develop a 10-year Strategic Plan. Short-term, it calls for hiring two firefighters to provide additional coverage during peak call times. This would reduce response times and improve the fire district’s ability to respond to multiple emergencies that happen at the same time. (Currently, CIF&R relies on help from neighboring fire districts, which can take longer.)

A portion of the funds also would be used to maintain facilities and replace aging apparatus (such as engines, ambulances and water tenders) that are past their usable lives. The fire district aggressively maintains its apparatus with in-house mechanics. However, as apparatus ages, it becomes costly to repair and parts are hard to find. The fire district developed an apparatus replacement schedule to make sure that emergency units will be available and reliable for emergency calls.

The last time voters approved a fire levy increase was in 2004 for $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The fire levy falls as property values rise, and it is now $1.10 per $1,000. CIF&R is asking voters to “lift the lid” on the fire levy to $1.35 per $1,000. This would cost the owner of a $350,000 home an additional $7.29 per month ($87.50 per year).

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Camano Island Fire and Rescue is an all-hazards response agency providing fire suppression, emergency medical service, technical and marine rescue to 20,000 people over 40 square miles. Fifty-three full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters respond to an average of 1,800 calls per year. For more information, contact Chief Michael Schick at mschick@camanofire.com or (360) 387-1512.