Ballots for the April 26 special election were mailed on April 8.
Inside, there is a ballot issue for East Pierce Fire and Rescue asking voters to consider re-setting (or lifting) the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy lid to the originally-approved 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
This is not a new tax. We need to lift the lid on the EMS levy because taxpayers are no longer paying the full levy amount. Although property taxes have risen, statewide voter initiatives restrict the amount the fire district can collect, reducing the rate in 2015 to 46.3 cents per thousand of assessed property value.
In 2016, that amount decreased to 44.3 cents. Lifting the rate back to the 50 cents would help cover the expense of providing EMS service. The cost to the home owner of a $350,000 home is approximately $21 per year.
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Re-establishing the collection rate back to the 50 cents will provide needed funds to train additional paramedics, cover the rising costs of medical equipment and supplies, and help us continue to provide critical emergency medical services, including Advanced Life Support transports for our citizens.
Furthermore, patients who live in the East Pierce Fire and Rescue district and are transported by an East Pierce Medic unit will not be charged “out-of-pocket” ambulance expenses. That means that the insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid will be billed, but the patient will not have to pay the co-pay or balance of the bill. Co-pays are “covered” by the district’s EMS levy. Patients who live outside our district are charged the full transport fee.
As we review response data, it has become clear that another Medic unit will be needed in the Milton/Edgewood area. Not only will that unit improve service to that immediate area, it will decrease the number of times that Medic units from Sumner and Bonney Lake must respond to calls in Milton and Edgewood — thus increasing Medic unit availability and reducing response times in Sumner and Bonney Lake as well. The funds from the lid lift will help us in our plans to add this fifth Medic unit to our system.
It takes about a year for a firefighter to be trained and qualified as a paramedic. Increasing the number paramedics so that we can add that Medic unit down the road is why we need to begin that training now. The revenue increase from this lid lift will not provide enough by itself to fund an additional Medic unit in our system, but it will allow us to begin the process of training in preparation of meeting that need.
We understand that we are entrusted with the enormous responsibility of caring for your family and neighbors during what is often the worst day of their lives. We will continue to be good stewards of your money and make every effort to provide the best possible service.
On behalf of the men and women of East Pierce Fire and Rescue, I thank you for your support.
Bud Backer is chief of East Pierce Fire and Rescue.