Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council to consider asking voters for fire levy on April ballot

The Spokane City Council on Monday will consider putting the renewal of a long-running emergency medical services levy on the April ballot.

The levy generates about $8 million annually for the fire department, which has an annual overall budget of nearly $50 million.

Voters last approved the levy in 2010, and it’s set to expire at the end of the year. If renewed, the levy will run for another six years through 2022, and bring in 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That comes to about $75 a year for a $150,000 house.

Fire Chief Bobby Williams said the majority of the levy’s funds go toward advanced life support services performed by paramedics. The money also goes toward operational costs, medical supplies, equipment and administrative oversight.

According to the fire department, approximately 87 percent of incidents responded to by the fire department require emergency medical services. In 2015, the department responded to 33,880 calls – about 90 a day.

The levy was first approved by voters in 1980, and has been renewed every six years since then, Williams said. Until recently, a supermajority of 60 percent of voters was needed to renew the levy. Since its last renewal, the state Legislature lowered the threshold for continuous, uninterrupted levies to a simple majority of 50 percent.

Williams warned if the levy failed, the department would lose up to 90 positions and have to close stations. Also, the department might no longer offer emergency medical services.

“I can’t tell people how to vote,” Williams said. “All I can do is encourage people to vote.”