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EMS levy supporters make final push

MARYSVILLE When the campaign was about to get underway, Marysville Fire District Captain Jeff Cole said he felt personal contact with voters would be needed to gain passage of an EMS levy on the ballot for the Aug. 19 primary.

Apparently, that personal contact is exactly what the pro-levy campaign Cole is chairing has tried to deliver.

With about a week left before the primary, Cole said levy backers are making the rounds in city neighborhoods, talking with voters face-to-face whenever possible or leaving informational door-hangers.

As of Aug. 7, Cole figured the campaign had directly reached about 10,000 residents, as well as handing out some 500 yard signs.

The Marysville Fire District along with Fire District 12 each has placed a levy lid lift on the Aug. 19 primary ballot. Although they operate as a combined service, Cole said the Marysville Fire District serves the city, while District 12 covers portions of unincorporated Snohomish County.

According to Cole and Marysville Fire District Chief Greg Corn, if voters approve the issues, both emergency districts again would collect the full amount voters approved in both service areas when they last passed an EMS levy in 2004.

The 2004 levy allowed the two fire districts to collect 50 cents per $1,000 in property valuation. Currently, due to state law, the Marysville district is collecting 34 cents per $1,000 in valuation, while Fire District 12 is taking in 38 cents.

"We've had some citizens with some really good questions about why the levy rate drops," Cole said.

The answer is rooted in that above-mentioned state law. Voter-sponsored and adopted several years ago, Initiative 747 means levies can increase in value only 1 percent per year no matter how much property values rise. That's the case even if it means levies end up collecting less than the amounts voters initially approved.

Talking before City Council last month, Corn stated another problem for both fire districts is that collections will continue to fall unless voters act. If the ballot issue doesn't pass, he said, Marysville would bring in 30 cents per $1,000 in valuation next year, 28 cents the following year.

According to the levy campaign, passage of the levy lid-lift would cost the owner of a home valued at $300,000 about $48 per year above what that owner is paying now.

According to Corn, levy passage would raise about $724,000 over current collections. The new rates would take effect next year.

Cole said the need for the levy comes from ever-increasing calls for service at a time when expenses just keep rising. He said the Marysville Fire District responded to approximately 10,000 calls for aid in 2007. They are on a pace at least to match that figure this year, with about 20 to 30 calls arriving daily.

As for proof of rising expenses, Corn contends voters need look no further than their local gas station.

"I don't think I need to talk about fuel costs, everybody knows what they are doing," Corn has said.

If the August issue fails, voters can expect to see the same measure again in November. With Mayor Dennis Kendall calling it a back-up plan, City Council acted at their last meeting of the summer to place the issue on the November ballot. Council needed to act now in order to meet election filing deadlines. Obviously, officials would remove the November measure if the August issue passes.

Cole said as he has helped campaign for the levy, voter response has been largely positive and he seemed cautiously optimistic the lid-lift will achieve voter approval.

"I just think it (EMS) is such a needed service to the community," he added.

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