News

Buckley to determine fate of EMS

By Jessica Keller

The Courier-Herald

Buckley residents will have to decide on the continuation of emergency medical services provided by the fire department on the Sept. 14 ballot.

The city is asking its citizen to approve a six-year emergency services levy, which pays for EMS costs incurred by the city.

The levy on the ballot is not a new one, but is a continuation of the existing EMS levy, which expires at the end of this year. In 1998 Buckley voters approved a regular tax in the amount of 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

For this levy, however, the city is asking for an increase to the maximum amount allowed by the state - 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The increase is due to several factors, an important one being that the city isn't covering costs for EMS with the current levy. Because of initiative measures that have been passed since 1998, the amount the city is currently collecting from taxpayers is 35 cents per $1,000.

While a four cent drop may not sound significant, Fire Chief Alan Predmore said, when applied to all the assessed property value, the decrease in funds to pay for EMS is significant.

For example, it is estimated the money the city will collect in 2004 from the current EMS levy is $90,500, but the projected operational costs for EMS are estimated at $107,970. The remainder of the cost is coming from the general fire service fund.

One of the main reasons for the increase in costs, in addition to operational, maintenance and training costs, is the increase of EMS calls in Buckley. The 1998 levy was based on the number of calls the city received in 1997, which was 379. The fire department fielded 652 EMS calls last year, and Predmore expects those numbers to increase to 700 or more in 2005.

In order for the levy to pass, at least 612 voters must turn out just to just validate the levy; beyond that, the levy needs 60 percent approval.

If Buckley voters do not approve the tax increase, it would be unlikely the Buckley Fire Department would be able to provide EMS services to residents because of no other available sufficient funding.

If Buckley's EMS levy passes, Buckley residents will be paying the same amount residents in fire districts 20, 22 and South Prairie pay for their EMS.

Jessica Keller can be reached at jkeller@courierherald.com

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