December 8, 1997
Medic One levy vote likely in February
by Andrew Walgamott
SEATTLE--If five major King County cities and the county council approve, an emergency medical services levy will appear on next February's ballot. City councils in Seattle, Bellevue, Shoreline, Kent and Federal Way voted early this week on putting a three-year $.29 per $1,000 of assessed property value tax levy on the ballot Feb. 3, though results weren't available at press time. If the city's approve, the county council will vote Dec. 15 to send the proposal to the voters for county-wide approval.
According to Steve Smith, King County fire chief's association president, the levy would take effect in 1999, leaving a funding gap in 1998. The county budget will fund EMS for the first six months of 1998, but not the last six. Smith said bonds would be sold to bridge the difference though that meant that only $.255 of the $.29 levy would go towards EMS. "There will be some effect on new services we won't be able to provide," Smith said. A 60 percent majority is needed to approve levies. Only 56.5 percent of voters approved last November's levy. But a survey conducted by Evans/McDonough and Moore Information Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 show that while voters were misinformed about that levy, they may approve it in February.
The poll found that only 44 percent knew that the levy was an existing tax while 56 percent thought Medic One and EMS were different programs or didn't know. EMS is an umbrella term for a county-wide system that helps provide funding for basic life support and advanced life support services through King County Medic One and Evergreen Medic One among others. Asked if they would vote for services, 81 percent of the 600 polled said they would. County leaders aren't taking chances this time. Reportedly top political strategists will run the campaign for the levy. Smith was fairly confident with the levy's chances. "It seems pretty doable." Other regional leaders including Bellevue's mayor, King County Executive Ron Sims and council members from Kent, Shoreline and Federal Way supported sending the levy back to voters last week as well.