I want to thank the community for their support of our fire levy lid lift in the November general election. Because of you, we will fund additional emergency personnel to keep up with higher call volumes. This will also allow us to put both a fire engine and a basic life support medical unit into service at the same time.
We’re grateful for your partnership in helping us save lives and property. We will continue to report back to you as we make progress on the projects we promised.
Fire Chief Jerry Helm
Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue invites the community to learn more about the fire levy lid lift that will be on the November 7, 2023, general election ballot. The purpose of the lid lift is to improve emergency services.
BALLOTS DUE NOVEMBER 7
Ballots are due on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. For your vote to count, ballots must be postmarked that day, or returned to an official ballot drop location by 8 p.m. Ballot return locations in Island County can be found here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/423/Elections-Voter-Registration.
What we do
We provide fire and life safety services to 9,000 people over 50 square miles north of Mutiny Bay and south of Libbey Road. We rely on full-time, part-time, and volunteer emergency personnel who respond to an average of 1,715 calls per year – of which 60 percent are for emergency medical service (EMS).
Our firefighters/EMTs are highly trained to provide the following services:
• Fire suppression and prevention
• Technical rescue (rope, marine, structure collapse)
• Hazardous material spills
• Vehicle accidents and extrication
• Community CPR classes that will increase survival rates for heart attack and stroke patients
We operate under a balanced budget and have passed all financial and accountability audits by the state.
How we are funded
Our daily operations are funded by a fire levy capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The maximum we have asked voters to approve is $1.35 per $1,000 back in 2012.
The fire levy or voter-approved bonds can also pay for capital projects, such as building fire stations or replacing fire engines and equipment.
Since 2012, the levy rate has dropped to $0.86 per $1,000.
Why did the levy rate drop?
Each year, we are allowed to collect a set amount of revenue. State law limits us to that amount plus one percent more per year. Even if property values double, we can only collect one percent more. This means that the levy rate falls as property values rise to limit our budget to the same amount per year plus that one percent increase. This is called “levy compression” and impacts our ability to provide emergency services.
What is a fire levy lid lift?
From time to time, we must ask voters to restore our fire levy to a previously approved amount, known as a levy lid lift, to help us keep up with higher call volumes and costs to provide service.
Voters approved a fire levy rate of $1.35 per $1,000 in 2012. Since that time, the rate has dropped to $0.86 while call volumes have increased by 50 percent and overlapping calls are happening 28 percent of the time – that’s when two or more emergencies come in at the same time.
We rely on full-time, part-time, and volunteer personnel. But volunteer personnel are not always available to respond, resulting in unpredictable staffing levels. This leads to longer response times and can seriously affect survival rates.
EMS accounts for 60 percent of all emergency calls
We responded to 1,715 calls in 2022 – of which 60 percent were for medical emergencies. EMS calls require on average two to eight emergency responders, depending on the medical situation, to perform various lifesaving tasks:
• Perform CPR
• Stabilize patients and perform extrications when necessary
• Administer treatment or medication
• Manage traffic and/or crowds
• Support family members
• Transport patients to the hospital
CPR calls, for example, require at least seven responders to maintain oxygen flow to the patient, perform chest compressions, and administer medications. This is the standard and seconds matter. The survivability rate of a patient drops 10 percent every minute that goes by without help.
Levy lid lift will reduce response times and improve service
We are asking voters to consider approving a fire levy lid lift of $0.32 per $1,000 during the November 2023 general election. The lid lift would raise the fire levy rate to $1.18 per $1,000, which is less than the $1.35 approved in 2012.
The lid lift will fund four additional full-time firefighters to reduce response times and improve service districtwide. The additional personnel will allow us to meet state requirements to perform interior search and rescue operations without having to wait for another fire engine to arrive on scene.
The additional personnel also allows us to put both a fire engine and a medical unit in service at the same time, which will reduce response times.
We currently run either a fire engine or medical unit, which delays our ability to perform interior search and rescue operations in cases of fire because state law requires four firefighters to be on scene and right now we can only afford a two-to-three-person crew.
What will this cost me?
The average property owner of a $500,000 home would pay an additional $160 per year.
Why does the ballot measure include CPI language?
CPI (Consumer Price Index) is common language on ballot measures across the state and is used by multiple agencies including fire districts in Island County. CPI sets rate guidelines and helps fire districts keep up with inflation and costs to provide service.
WANT TO LEARN MORE? PRESENTATION AVAILABLE!
Fire Chief Jerry Helm welcomes the opportunity to provide a 15-to-30-minute presentation to local groups and organizations about emergency services in the fire district and the lid lift being considered, as well as answer any questions. If you’d like to arrange for a presentation, please contact Chief Helm at [email protected] or
BOFC Meeting – June 8 at 5PM
The Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue Board of Fire Commissioners met Thursday, June 8 to discuss a resolution to place a fire levy lid lift on the November 7, 2023, general election ballot. The community was invited to attend the meeting at 5 p.m. at Station 54, 3253 Day Road in Greenbank.
Letter – Heraldnet – June 27, 2023
Central Whidbey fire district may seek levy lid lift – February 14, 2023
Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue facing challenges to service – January 26, 2023
Letter to the Editor – November 8, 2023
CWIFR earns 12th consecutive Distinguished Budget Presentation Award – March 31, 2023
PRO/CON VOLUNTEERS SOUGHT: The Board of Commissioners for Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue approved a resolution to place a levy lid lift on the November 7, 2023, general election ballot. The lid lift would fund additional firefighters to improve emergency response.
The fire district is accepting names of people interested in participating on a pro or con committee to provide a voter pamphlet statement. Residents interested in participating, please contact Chief Jerry Helm at [email protected] by July 17, 2023.