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September 8, 1997

Opinion

Renewing Emergancy Medical Services

  There was a hullabaloo the last time the EMS levy rate was raised, when it was nearly doubled to 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The increase sponsors admitted it was higher than necessary, but said it would allow local fire districts to cut down on their expenditures in the medical service area.
  
   In 1995 aid calls comprised 70% of all emergency calls in our local fire district. (The district, in recognition of its workload, now calls itself Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District.) We pay dearly for the service, with both a levy and a benefits service charge. As our own individual assessed valuations shoot up, so do the total district valuations on which the levies are based, from $2+ billion in 1992 to $3.5 billion in 1997. (District revenue from those valuations rose from $3 million in 1992 to nearly $5.5 million in 1997.)
  
   So increasing the EMS levy shouldn't be considered in a vacuum, but in tandem with fire district levies/charges. It should also be considered as a voter-approved "lid lift" that will establish a new higher base for future annual 106% limits on property tax yields.
  
   Further, the question arises as to how many aid cars/personnel respond to service calls. In Seattle there were calls to service stomach aches, bloody noses, twisted ankles, sunblock in eyes, passed-out drunks and flu. Did response to those calls involve the same number of vehicles/personnel as for more serious calls?
  
   With belt-tightening and established criteria for levels of response, the EMS and fire district people can get along without an increase in our already high property taxes and still provide excelleng service.
  
   Maxine Keesling