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East Pierce seeks $6.2 million levy to make up funding
There is one more chance for the public to meet with East Pierce Fire and Rescue officials and have their questions answered before the district's Maintenance and Operations levy heads to voters Aug. 7.
The fire district is looking to make up funding that has been lost due to falling property values throughout Pierce County. The two-year levy on the ballot will supply the district $3 million for 2013 and $3.2 million in 2014.
The estimated tax impact is 38 cents per $1,000 assessed home value.
For the average home in the district, valued at approximately $250,000, that would come to a rate of $7.92 per month, or $95 per year.
This is the first time East Pierce has run a maintenance and operations levy.
Fire district personnel will present information regarding funding issues, actions the fire district has taken to address budget concerns and the impact falling property assessments are having on service levels.
The final meeting of three meetings is scheduled for 7 p.m., today, Thursday, July 19, at Station 18, 10105 24th St. E., Edgewood.
From 2009 to 2013, the district will have lost approximately $6 million annually in tax revenues, a drop of more than 30 percent.
“Our district is facing unprecedented reductions in its funding and is asking for any interested citizens to join district staff and learn about our funding issues,” said East Pierce Fire Chief Jerry E. Thorson in a press release.
Unfortunately, the outlook for rapid improvements in the economy does not look favorable.
"We anticipate an additional 5 to 10 percent reduction in tax revenues in 2014.Despite significant cuts over the past four years, we cannot continue to absorb additional reductions in funding without significantly impacting the level of service you receive from your firefighters," Thorson said.
Nearly 90 percent of the district’s total revenues come from property valuations. As property values have fallen, so have the revenues collected by the fire district.
District residents pay a rate of $1.50 per thousand of assessed value for fire services and .50 cents per thousand of assessed value for EMS services.
In 2008, the average homeowner paid a total of approximately $700 per year for fire and emergency medical services. After the decline in assessed value, the Pierce County Assessor’s Office estimates that the same homeowner will pay approximately $500 in 2012.
In June, the fire district received more bad news from the Assessor’s Office. Property values in our area dropped by another 12 percent for residential properties. Combined with the previous declines, East Pierce Fire and Rescue has lost more than 30 percent of annual revenues since 2009— approximately $6 million of its annual budget.
The district anticipates an additional 5 to 10 percent reduction in 2013.
East Pierce Fire and Rescue provides fire and emergency medical response to approximately 83,000 residents living in a 152-square-mile area that includes Bonney Lake, Sumner, Edgewood, Milton, South Prairie, Wilkeson, the Ridge Communities and the area around Lake Tapps.
In 2011, East Pierce firefighters responded to a total of 8,362 emergency calls. Of those, 6,163 were for emergency medical services-related incidents, an increase of 9 percent over 2010. All full-time firefighters are also trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics, who respond to both medical emergencies and fires.
Thorson says that the levy would cost the owner of a $250,000 home approximately $95.00 in 2013, or $7.92 per month. “What it would provide to the fire department would be invaluable,” he says. “In addition to maintaining the same level of quality service and staffing, we would be able to restore much needed training and maintain equipment, vehicles and stations,” he says. “We certainly need every bit of it.”