Personnel from Clark County Fire District 3 have discussed placing a measure on the ballot this year to help fund daily operations as call volumes in the district’s coverage area continue to increase.
The district, which serves a population of 46,000 people in east Clark County and Battle Ground, responded to 4,961 calls in 2022.
“The fire district’s population has grown 26% in the last 10 years and this growth is driving higher call volumes for emergency services,” stated a news release from the district.
While the fire district has petitioned the Clark County Council to pass impact fees to offset capital costs associated with the growth, those have been unsuccessful.
To keep up with the current call volume and to plan for the future, the fire district has discussed asking voters for a fire levy lid lift for daily operations this year and a bond for a new fire station further down the road.
“We don’t control growth, but we have to serve it,” Fire Chief Scott Sorenson stated in the release. “Our community has grown to the point where we require additional personnel to keep up with requirements to meet the emergency service needs of our community.”
Sorenson said impact fees would help reduce the cost of a new fire station for taxpayers.
“We will continue to advocate for impact fees so our taxpayers know we are fighting for them,” he stated in the release.
Fire District 3 currently operates two-person crews, which prevents firefighters from entering buildings to perform search and rescue operations, stated the release. The district is focused on adding emergency personnel to allow for three-person engine companies, which is the national standard for fire districts of a similar size.
“The fire district’s current staffing levels place the district out-of-compliance with state law for risk requirements for emergency personnel,” stated the release. “This impacts safety for both the community and firefighters.”
The district’s daily operations and its EMS program is funded with a fire levy that is capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Voters approved a fire levy of $1.42 per $1,000 in 2017, but the rate has since dropped to $1.21 because of “levy compression,” stated the release.
“Each year the fire district is allowed to collect a set amount of revenue. State law limits the fire district to that amount plus 1% more each year (or any other voter-approved amount),” stated the release. “Even if property values double, the fire district can only collect 1% more. This means that the levy rate falls as property values rise to limit the fire district to the same amount per year plus that 1% increase.”
The fire district has considered asking voters to return the levy to $1.50 per $1,000 sometime this year through a fire levy lid lift. Before a final decision is made, the district will provide the public with a chance to weigh in.
“We have always delivered on promised projects and improvements from past fire levy lid lifts,” Sorenson stated in the release. “We are your fire district and we are accountable to you. We look forward to this important conversation.”
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