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Council places EMS levy on Aug. 19 ballot
MARYSVILLE With little comment except on some minor technical issues, City Council unanimously acted May 12 to place a levy for the benefit of city emergency medical services on the ballot Aug. 19.
The vote will coincide with the state primary.
Fire Chief Greg Corn said he expects officials of the Marysville Fire District to take action at their May 21 meeting on a similar levy to benefit the fire district. Corn doesn't consider either issue to constitute a "new" levy, but instead talked about restoring previously voter-approved tax measures to their original collection levels.
All in all, the "levy lid lift" would bring in about $1 million per year to be split between EMS and the fire district, Corn said.
According to Corn, the local EMS levy currently collects about 34 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value on a levy voters approved to collect 50 cents on assessed property value.
Voters approved that levy in 2004. But as many Washington voters probably know, thanks to Initiative 747 passed statewide several years ago, levies only can increase in value 1 percent each year no matter how much property values rise and even if that means the levy is not collecting as much it did in the past.
Again, as most voters know, a levy lid lift returns issues to the collection level originally approved by voters. For the city's EMS, Corn said the lift would add about $724,000 per year over current collections.
If voters approve, Corn said the lid lift would take affect in 2009.
While he placed a certain amount of emphasis on the EMS issue, Corn said it only makes sense for the local fire district to ask for a lid lift at the same time. The fire district currently collects about 38 cents per 50 cents of voter-approved millage. Corn believes there are several reasons for the EMS and fire district to approach voters simultaneously.
Perhaps most importantly, the two always have gone to voters at the same time in order to maintain a balance in funding between the two services.
At the same, Corn talked about it being cheaper for the city to run an election for both services at the same time rather than to run one now for EMS and put another issue to benefit the fire district before voters at some point in the future.
Because both issues are lid lifts, both will need a simple majority to pass. No supermajority will be needed. However, Corn noted the original EMS levy passed in 2004 did require approval by a supermajority of voters.
At least on the EMS side, Corn said if voters turned down the issue, the city could keep service levels at their current levels for a few years.
"We are trying to be proactive, get ahead of the curve," he said, adding he didn't want to have to go before voters and talk about service cuts if an issue didn't pass.
Corn also noted the amount the levy collects only will keep falling until voters act. For example, if voters don't approve the lid lift, the EMS issue will bring in 30 cents next year, 28 cents the following year. At the same time, Corn said operating costs for both fire and EMS only are going to continue to rise.
"I don't think I need to talk about fuel costs, everybody knows what they are doing," Corn said.
While local fire and EMS officials can't go out and campaign for issues themselves, Corn said he fully expects a pro-levy group to step forward and push for passage of both measures.
Should either issue fail come August, there seems to be a good chance officials will refloat the measures during the fall general election. Corn promised that would be the case for the EMS levy.