What we do
We provide fire and life safety services to 17,000 people over 46 square miles. We rely on full-time, part-time, and volunteer emergency personnel who have responded to an average of 2,300 calls per year in the last five years – of which 66 percent were for emergency medical service (EMS).
Our emergency personnel are highly trained in the following areas:
- Fire suppression and prevention
- Water and technical rescue
- Hazardous material response
- Vehicle accidents and extrication
- Fire and life safety education
We operate under a balanced budget and have passed all our financial and accountability audits by the state.
How we are funded
We receive zero funding from Island County government. We are a separate taxing district funded by two voter-approved property tax levies.
Our EMS levy funds a portion of our EMS personnel and medical equipment costs. The EMS levy is capped at $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Most of our funding comes from our regular levy. This levy pays for daily operations including our EMS program. The regular levy also pays for capital projects such as equipment replacement or fire station renovations. The regular levy is capped at $1.50 per $1,000.
In 2017 voters approved a regular levy rate of $1.35. Since that time, the rate has dropped to $0.83.
Why did the levy rate drop
Each year, we are only allowed to collect a set amount of revenue. State law limits us to that amount plus one percent more per year. Even if property values double, we can only collect one percent more. This means that the levy rate falls as property values rise to limit our budget to the same amount per year plus that one percent increase.
This is called “levy erosion” and impacts our ability to provide emergency services.
EMS accounted for 63 percent of all emergency calls in 2022
We responded to 2,468 calls in 2022 – of which 63 percent were for medical emergencies. We have only one paramedic per shift to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS). ALS is the highest level of emergency care that can be provided outside a hospital. Paramedics can:
- Start intravenous lines
- Administer medication
- Provide advanced airway management to help patients breathe
- Perform other lifesaving care for trauma, heart attack, stroke and critical infections
What is a levy lid lift?
From time to time, we must ask voters to reset our regular levy. This is known as a levy lid lift, and it helps us keep up with higher call volumes and costs to provide service.
Voters approved a regular levy rate of $1.35 in 2017. Since then, the rate has dropped to $0.83 while call volumes have increased by 28 percent and overlapping calls are happening 20 percent of the time – that’s when two or more emergencies come in at the same time.
Lid lift will reduce response times and improve service
We are considering asking voters to approve a regular levy lid lift of $0.42 per $1,000 during the November 2023 general election. The lid lift would raise the regular levy rate to $1.25 per $1,000, which is less than the $1.35 approved in 2017.
We need adequate staffing levels to meet the emergency needs of our community. The nearest hospital is more than 60 miles away round trip. Transporting a patient can take an ambulance and its emergency personnel out of service for as long as five hours. If two transports happen at the same time and another call comes in, we must rely on mutual aid from agencies located in Stanwood or north Snohomish County, which take longer to reach the island.
The $0.42 lid lift would:
- Fund up to six additional emergency personnel
- Put into service another medic unit staffed by a second paramedic
- Renovate the Mabana fire station to allow for 24-hour staffing
What will this cost me?
The property owner of a $500,000 home would pay an additional $210 per year or $17.50 per month.
Fire Chief Levon Yengoyan welcomes your questions at email@example.com or 360-387-1512.