In the quiet neighborhood sometimes referred to as “down ballot” sit two local election propositions, both given the number one.
Voters in Gig Harbor and Graham are being asked to approve measures that will strengthen the operation and governance of their emergency response systems. Though these items lack the fanfare reserved for the top of the ticket, both are worthy of a yes vote.
Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One Proposition 1 would maintain the current level of emergency medical services; support for a six-year levy lid lift would allow the district to override the state lid that limits local government tax growth to 1 percent a year.
Inflation, increased vendor cost and a growing community are legitimate reasons for the request. Last year, emergency crews responded to 5,586 calls, a 25 percent increase since 2011.
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Proposition 1 would set the limit factor to 106 percent for each of the five succeeding years, and use the 2021 levy dollar amount for computing the limitation for subsequent levies. The levy would still follow property value and be capped at 6 percent.
Voters previously approved a 50-cent EMS levy that was reduced to 46 cents by the state cap. This will simply return it to 50 cents per $1,000 of 2016 assessed property value, which equates to $175 a year for a $350,000 dollar home, a reasonable request for emergency services.
Increased property values will force owners to dig a little deeper. Gig Harbor is the second-highest-priced residential community in the county, and the dollar-value increase of homes on the Peninsula between 2015-16 was the county’s highest. But the restoration of four cents to the levy rate will not be missed if you ever find yourself in a crisis.
And speaking of cents, Graham Fire & Rescue Proposition 1 does not seek for any more of them. The measure asks citizens to approve expanding the size of the elected fire commission from three to five members.
Back in 1963 when the district was formed, three members was a sufficient quorum, but as our most recent Nobel laureate might say, times they are a-changin’. Graham’s once-rural landscape has transformed dramatically in the last half-century.
It only makes sense to authorize a larger elected board to increase community representation and address the needs of a growing suburban population. A governing triumvirate is also more prone to unchecked secrecy, skulduggery and bad ideas than a five-member board would be.