Arlington considering utility fee to close funding gap for EMS

The proposed $15 charge does not have to be approved by voters.

ARLINGTON — City leaders are considering a new fee to help pay for emergency medical services.

The Arlington City Council expects to vote this summer on a proposed ambulance utility fee. The $15 would be tacked onto monthly water-sewer-stormwater bills for homes and businesses.

The goal is to create reliable funding for EMS, city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.

“The (City) Council’s been at this for four years of really intensive study considering every possibility out there to address this funding issue,” she said.

The EMS budget relies on a property tax levy, transport fees charged for ambulance trips and contracts with other communities that pay Arlington for ambulance service.

There is a $1.5 million gap between what those sources bring in and how much the city says is needed. The city has been pulling money from the general fund to fill the gap, Banfield said.

The City Council considered several possibilities for funding EMS without drawing from the general fund. Options included: a lid lift for the EMS levy, currently 38 cents per $1,000 assessed property value; a criminal justice sales tax similar to a measure that was shot down by Snohomish County voters in 2016; or an increase to the general property tax levy.

Any of those would have required approval by Arlington voters, and they didn’t fully close the gap, Banfield said.

The utility fee does not require a ballot measure. The City Council can approve it. Money from the fee would go into an account specifically for EMS.

That would free up money in the general fund, which would be used to hire two new police officers right away and a third by 2020, according to the city. Three more firefighters, cross-trained as emergency medical technicians or paramedics, would be hired in 2021, as well.

City leaders also would like to bring on a domestic violence coordinator and a second police support officer, and set aside money to keep an embedded social worker with local police if grant support ends.

“The City Council is really focused on ensuring that public safety investments … address the ongoing public health challenges the community is facing: homelessness, mental health, substance abuse … ” Banfield said. “In addition, we have an aging population that is using our system more.”

If the new fee is approved, the City Council would review the amount every two years, similar to water and sewer rates. Parts of the city that get water and sewer from Marysville would receive a separate Arlington ambulance utility bill.

The plan is to have a public hearing during the council meeting at 7 p.m. July 2. Council members may vote that night or at the following meeting, Banfield said.

Comments also can be emailed to kbanfield@arlingtonwa.gov. They will be provided to the City Council before the hearing.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Traffic’s creeping back and some transit to collect fares again

Community Transit and Sound Transit are set to resume fares June 1, but not Everett Transit.

Neil Hubbard plays the bagpipes in front of a memorial at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood Monday morning. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Memorial Day tradition continues in Lynnwood amid pandemic

Loved ones placed flags at Floral Hills cemetery as bagpipes played in the distance Monday morning.

COVID-19 and domestic violence

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

Counting COVID deaths isn’t as simple as you might think

State relies on results of tests and death certificates in calculating the daily toll of the disease.

Stillaguamish Tribe gives $1M to food banks, fire services

“I had to do a double take,” said the director of the Stanwood Camano Food Bank, which received $300,000.

Island County gets go-ahead for Phase 2 of reopening economy

People can gather in groups five or fewer. Some businesses can open, if they follow guidelines.

The town the virus seemed to miss: No cases counted in Index

Some in the town of 175 fear outsiders could bring in the virus. Others just want things to get back to normal.

Worst jobless rate in the state: Snohomish County at 20.2%

In April, 91,383 were unemployed in the county. The aerospace sector was hit especially hard.

Boeing worker accused of murder after Everett party shooting

Police say the suspect, 35, made sexual advances and opened fire when he was turned down.

Most Read