Be fully informed about EMS levy facts

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category icon Columns, Opinion
Greg Anderson

Recently there was a letter published regarding the upcoming Camas EMS renewal levy, and I want the readers and voters to be more fully and factually informed.

Since the late 1970’s voters have repeatedly supported the emergency services provided to the community by approving levy ballot measures. The initial rate of 25 cents per $1,000 assessed value, and then a subsequent voter approved rate increase to 35 cents per $1,000 to continue to provide the funds necessary to provide nationally recognized superb care to the citizens.

Appearing on the ballot for Aug. 7 is a ballot measure submitted by the Camas City Council asking for a renewal of the levy along with a rate increase from 35 cents to 46 cents per $1,000 assessed value, that will not increase unless there is another ballot measure, and it is a 6 year levy. The process taken to arrive at this levy rate was lengthy, detailed, and involved many hours of analysis, plus an in-depth review by a citizen advisory group. This amount provides the EMS funds to sustain staffing and equipment for the paramedic services.

If you were to review the last six years of assessed valuation on your house, you will note that there was a major decline in assessed value. City-wide assessed values have declined by about 25 percent. This means that the taxes from the last approved ballot measure in 2006 have decreased, putting the EMS service at risk of being insolvent. The actual call/response volume has increased by 15.5 percent, staffing levels have not increased, and the cost of fuel and equipment has increased.

In an example from a friend, in 2006 the amount paid in taxes to the EMS service was slightly over $200 per year. As the assessed value of their house fell, so did the amount taxed. What did not fall was the quality of the service or the amount of calls that were being responded to in Camas. In fact, both grew. At today’s assessed value and assuming the proposed rate of 46 cents per thousand, my friend would pay $211 per year for EMS service. To say that this service is skyrocketing in cost would be inaccurate. It is not even keeping up with inflation. I believe that we are more efficient than ever with the money collected.

At the end of this year, the six year EMS levy expires and without that levy paramedic ambulance service that responds to citizen’s needs would cease to exist in the way we have it now.

As to the levy rate, yes it is an increase over the current 35 cents, with 46 cents being asked for voter support. The cost to a property owner remains very similar as a total amount per year.

Second, yet of equal importance, in response to the alleged lack of following RCW 29A.32.280, the city followed this process exactly and fully. In coordination with the Clark County elections office, we repeatedly, and publicly, asked for citizens interested in volunteering to write a “no” statement for the voters guide prior to the deadline for publication. The city and county elections department received no response on this. With approval and awareness from the Clark County elections department, the ballot measure moved forward without a “no” statement being written.

The person writing the recent letter had recently contacted the city, and was given the full details, including copies of publications in the Post-Record, and still, apparently, believes the city made an error. I, as a city council-member for over 15 years, cannot let this stand with incorrect information being presented as if it were true. The city of Camas did follow the RCW for this ballot measure.

If you need emergency help, please call 911. If you need information that is accurate to help you understand the ballot measure before you cast your vote, please call one of the city council-members, the mayor, the fire chief, or any other member of city staff and we would be very happy to help you with accurate information. Camas is a special place with exceptional and responsive people providing excellent services to the community.

Greg Anderson is a member of the Camas City Council.