Regular Camano Island Fire & Rescue Levy renewal set for ballot in Aug. 2022

The Camano Island Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners recently approved a resolution to place a regular property tax levy request on the ballot in August 2022.

The ballot measure asks voters to reauthorize a levy rate of $1.35 per $1,000 of assessed property value – the same rate voters approved in 2017. This levy represents approximately 58% of Camano Fire’s annual budget and must be regularly renewed to ensure the department can maintain its quality of service and response readiness.

“Since 2018, our call volume has gone up significantly,” said Chief Levon Yengoyan. “We’re responding to 37% more calls with nearly the same number of firefighters. The cost to provide these services is also increasing, particularly fuel, equipment, and supplies.”

Camano Fire trains and responds to more than 2,600 calls each year including fires, medical emergencies, car accidents, and marine and rope rescues. In addition, Camano Fire performs regular local fire and safety inspections, operates a vehicle maintenance division, and performs public education events like first aid and CPR classes.

“We had to temporarily suspend our Community Paramedicine program due to staffing shortages,” Yengoyan said. “Our top priority is responding to calls. We need to keep these paramedics in our medic units.”

State limits have prevented Camano Fire from collecting any more than a 1% increase in tax revenue each year, plus any revenue from new construction. This limit, coupled with a rise in property values, has resulted in a decline of the current levy rate. Renewing the levy would result in an increase of roughly $155 per year for the owner of a home valued at $500,000.

In early 2021, voters approved an EMS levy that supplements the regular property tax levy. The EMS levy represents approximately 28% of the department’s annual budget. By law, 100% of the EMS levy funding goes to EMS services and bridges the gap in funding needed to provide paramedic staffing, training, medical supplies, and replacement ambulances. EMS levy funding cannot be spent on fire protection or other non-medical services.

“The regular renewal of our levies is critical to our response readiness,” Yengoyan said. “Levies are the funding mechanism that allow us to continue putting firefighters and paramedics at your door when you need them.”

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