Clark County Fire District 3 hopes to stop the hemorrhaging of its emergency reserves by bumping a fire levy back up to $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
FD3 contracts with the city of Battle Ground and serves 40,000 people across 84 square miles, including Hockinson, Finn Hill, Brush Prairie, Battle Ground Lake, Heisson and Lucia Falls.
The levy dropped to $1.29 at the beginning of this year after the district failed to pass a levy lid lift last August. The district hopes for better luck this November when it goes to vote again, a decision made by their commissioners on June 12.
The district had the option to ask for up to $1.50, but are just asking voters get them back to where they were.
“Fire District 3 hasn’t had a voter-approved funding increase for 11 years,” said Fire Chief Steve Wrightson in a news release. “This is the amount we need to maintain emergency service levels moving forward and protect our insurance rating for home and business owners.”
Fire District 3 reports that over the last decade emergency calls have increased around 40 percent. Since FD3 began contacting with Battle Ground in 2016, the number of calls more than doubled, but that is not taken into account in regards to the spike in calls when looking at the increase in the district over the last 10 years.
“As call volumes have increased, so have costs for apparatus and facilities maintenance, equipment, supplies and personnel,” the district said in a news release. “These costs are not something the fire district can control. In contrast, the fire district is limited to a 1 percent revenue increase per year.”
Fire District 3 has been dipping into emergency reserves for the last few years to stay afloat.
Furthermore, as response times continue to increase, the district warns of increased premiums for businesses and homeowners as their insurance rating is downgraded.
Fire District 3 is almost halfway through its second year of contracting with the city of Battle Ground, and Wrightson is pleased with the partnership so far. He said it is not a part of the financial struggles they’re facing.
“The city of Battle Ground is paying for itself,” he said. “And, it enhances our emergency response for district and city residents with more staffed stations and units to respond.”
Wrightson said the feedback they’ve received both online and in the two public meetings they’ve held has been largely positive.
He points at a lack of communication as the reason it failed last August. After it was voted down, he began to hear that voters didn’t fully understand the language on the ballot, with some thinking it would double their fire levy tax.
Leading up to the vote this fall, Wrightson said the district will be working to clear up the language and communicate better with the public online and through in-person informational meetings.