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

Spokane voters approve EMS levy in special election

A majority of Spokane residents who participated in a special election tallied Tuesday voted in support of a tax levy that will help pay for citywide EMS services.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The six-year tax levy to support the city’s emergency medical services appears likely to win the approval of Spokane voters who participated in Tuesday’s special election .

Votes tallied Tuesday night by Spokane County Elections show 18,289 voted in favor of the tax levy at 50 cents per $1,000 of 2022 assessed property value, representing just over 54% of the vote. Another 15,372 voted against. More votes will be counted in the coming days as they are received in the mail.

“We appreciate the voters very much in their support of the fire department,” city spokesman Brian Coddington said. “It’s crucial funding that helps provide the services people need when they call for help.”

The majority of revenue from the levy will go toward staffing emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters who provide patient care, according to the city. Other expenses include equipment replacements, vehicle maintenance and training.

Just under 24% of registered voters in Spokane took part in the election, according to the unofficial results. Of 143,775 active registered voters, 33,686 ballots were returned, according to Spokane County Elections. The elections office tallied four overvotes, where someone selected more options than allowed, and 21 blanks.

If support for the levy holds, voters will have set the total EMS dollar amount collected through the levy at an estimated $13.1 million for the 2023 fiscal year. That amount can only increase each year through 2028 by 1% plus a small increment for new construction activity.

The estimated revenue is up approximately $3.7 million from what the city expects to collect from the levy this year even though the rate approved by voters in 2016, at 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, is technically the same.

That’s because the allowable increase to the amount collected by the levy has not kept pace with Spokane’s rising property values. As such, the levy will effectively only collect 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed value this year based on current property values. That’s approximately $9.4 million.

The city saw a similar spike in revenue from 2016 to 2017 when the levy’s effective rate was then reset. Tonya Wallace, the city’s chief financial officer, said the levy collected approximately $8.3 million in 2017, up from $7.8 million a year prior, citing reports from the Spokane County Assessor’s Office.