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Washington Voices

District 4 puts levy at same level as one it replaces

Spokane County District No. 4 fire commissioners are taking a conservative approach in asking for renewal of the district’s six-year property tax levy for emergency medical services.

State law allows the district to seek up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation annually for EMS, but the district is seeking a new six-year levy of 33 cents per $1,000 of value.

The last levy was approved in 2004 at 50 cents per $1,000, but increased property values caused the collection rate to fall to its current level of 33 cents per $1,000, which is where the commissioners said they want to keep it.

The measure appears on the Nov. 2 ballot for voters in the district, which sprawls across the northern reaches of the county, including Deer Park, Chattaroy, Green Bluff, Wild Rose and Colbert.

Fire Chief Ed Lewis said the EMS levy provides about a quarter of the district’s annual operating budget and “has been a critical part of the district’s basic funding since 1992.”

That was the year that the EMS levy was first approved, and it has returned to the ballot every six years since to supplement the district’s regular property tax collections. Voters in February approved an increase in regular property tax collections.

In a letter to district residents, fire commissioners said that “due to current economic conditions, we believe that maintaining the (EMS) levy at the current rate … is in keeping with the voters’ wishes.”

The money goes to pay for reliable emergency response to medical calls, including automobile accidents, which make up about a quarter of all medical calls.

As with most fire agencies, the vast majority of calls are for medical help – 80 percent in District 4.

Renewal requires a 60 percent majority approval.