In May of 2015, I was the beneficiary of the Evergreen EMS services because of a heart attack I endured while cutting grass. This scenario could happen to anyone at any time, which is why the Evergreen community chose to pursue funding 24/7/365 Fire and EMS services after construction of the new station in 2009. The funding of Fire and EMS services continued, in 2014, when voters approved the continuation of the 2004 10-year expiring levy. The 2014 five-year levy expires in July; a new levy is required to continue to provide Evergreen with adequate Fire and EMS services.
As you may recall, last year a new funding levy was requested by the district and failed. I was the sole trustee opposed to the prior request as being excessive, and Iíd like to explain why the current levy request deserves taxpayer support.
I am supporting the levy request, not because it is almost half of the prior request, but because it represents fair wages to EMTís and paramedics. The average wage for the EMT is $13.75; with entry-level about $12, and advanced and/or experience up to $15 per hour. The average wage for paramedic is $17.25; with entry-level about $15, and advanced and/or experience up to $19 per hour. When you need help, you want your EMTís and paramedics to be engaged in their profession by having adequate training and compensation. By no means does the request overcompensate your EMTs and paramedics, rather the compensation is fair and will prevent costly turnover.
Approximately one-third of the levy request ($210,000) is dedicated to an equipment and vehicle replacement fund and represents responsible fiscal planning. This levy is fixed in time, for a duration of 10 years, rather than in perpetuity, again representing responsible fiscal planning.
The trustees did not come to this levy request alone, and sought significant community input. From July through November 2018, a community group representing residential and commercial property taxpayers reviewed district census demographic data, call volumes, expenditures, revenue, operations, financing options, personnel staffing issues, trends and comparable district operations. The group targeted $650,000 and through adjustments ended with $631,500. The board agreed with the community groupís recommendation.
The proposed levy will cost the residential taxpayer about $51 per year per $100,000 of Assessed Market Value, which when taken in conjunction with the expiring levy, amounts to a net increase of about $40 per year per $100,000.
The need for continued funding of the district is clear: during the last five years, calls per year have increased 49 percent, from 1,950 to 2,905. The district has an aging fleet of EMS and Fire apparatus; 15- to 20-year-old fire engines; 10- to 18-year-old ambulances; 12- to 16-year-old command and chase PU trucks; and a 23-year-old aerial ladder. The replacement schedule is by no means a Cadillac plan; it includes purchasing used and new vehicles.
Just as you prepare your car for winter months with an emergency pack you may never need to use, EMS and fire protection is about being prepared and able to respond timely and responsibly to our community members in need.
Please join me in supporting the Evergreen Fire District mill levy request by returning your mail ballot by March 9, so it may be counted on March 12, 2019.
óJack Fallon serves on the Evergreen Fire District Board of Trustees