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Increasing call volumes may require levy lift for Snohomish County Fire District 7

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A 10.38% increase in call volumes for emergency calls may require Snohomish County Fire District 7 to ask voters for a fire levy lift this year. This levy lift wouldn’t affect Mill Creek residents because fire services for the city are provided via a separate contract.

From a Snohomish County Fire District 7 news release.

Snohomish County Fire District 7 reported a 10.38% increase in emergency calls for 2016. Emergency personnel responded to a record number of calls last year –10,790 compared to 9,775 in 2015.

Calls for emergency medical service (EMS) represented 63% of all emergencies for the fire district. Firefighting and motor vehicle collisions were the second and third most utilized emergency service. There were 878 fires in the district, and 697 motor vehicle collisions requiring an emergency response.

Fire District 7 also saw an increase in calls for its Community Resource Paramedic. This is a joint program with Lake Stevens Fire to reduce non-emergency calls to 911 and improve patient care for both communities.

Fire District 7 personnel with advanced training in certain areas also were called on to assist other fire agencies throughout the year. These “special operations” accounted for almost three dozen calls in 2016 and can include hazardous materials, rope rescues, trench or earth collapse, confined space rescue or water-related emergencies.

“Our taxpayers have built the most advanced emergency response system in Snohomish County with highly-trained personnel, facilities, apparatus, and rescue programs,” said Fire Chief Gary Meek. “We appreciate the support of our community for the work we do.”

Funding for emergency services is paid through property taxes, and capped at the voter-approved rate of $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value ($1.50 for fire and 50 cents for EMS). Over time, these levy rates fall as property values increase. State law limits property tax increases to 1% per year, but the demand for and cost to provide service is often higher than that.

Fire District 7 will consider asking its community to restore funding through a fire levy lid lift this fall. This would represent a less than 1-cent/$1,000 increase for property owners in former Monroe Fire District 3 ($4 per year for a home valued at $400,000). Property owners in Fire District 7 would see a 4-cent/$1,000 increase ($16/year) for the same home.

Voters in former Monroe Fire District 3 supported a merger with Fire District 7 in August of last year by 81%. By law and because of the merger, the levy amounts are different until 2018 when all property owners will pay the same combined rate of $1.95/$1,000 for fire and EMS.

“We want our community involved,” said Chief Meek. “Regular lid lifts give the public an opportunity to weigh in on funding decisions for emergency services.”

Fire District 7’s contract with the City of Mill Creek expired on December 31, 2016. An automatic one-year renewal is now in place while a new contract is being negotiated.

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