Firetruck and ambulance on Rucker Ave. in Everett. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Firetruck and ambulance on Rucker Ave. in Everett. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Tax hike would fund increased emergency calls, higher costs

Everett officials say the demand for services has outstripped available funding.

EVERETT — As calls to 911 increase, city leaders in Everett are asking taxpayers to pay more to support emergency medical services.

They want voters to approve Proposition 3, which is forecast to raise $9.2 million next year.

The measure would raise the EMS levy rate from 40 cents to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. An owner of a $300,000 home would pay $150 a year — $30 more than now.

In the past eight years, according to city data, call volumes to the Everett Fire Department have increased 36 percent. Of those, 87 percent were medically related. In 2017, the department responded to nearly 24,000 calls.

“Revenues aren’t keeping up with the expenditures,” said Randy Utt, a retired Everett firefighter and paramedic. “What we are asking voters to do is restore what was already approved (in past years).”

Labor and fuel costs are increasing, he said.

In 2010, Everett voters approved an EMS levy rate of 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value. However, under state law that has dropped to 40 cents per $1,000.

Due to the decrease, other city resources have been used to fill the gap.

“Over the last five years, the general fund has provided a subsidy to the EMS fund of an average of $850,000 per year,” wrote Meghan Pembroke, city spokeswoman, in an email.

If Proposition 3 does not pass, Pembroke said, the city would need to continue contributing money from the general fund.

This could further squeeze the city’s already tight budget.

Paul Giesick, a critic of the increase and a libertarian, says the higher levy rate will hurt low-income families, small business owners and first-time home buyers.

“Taxes don’t need to go up because our local government can’t control its funding,” Giesick said.

Last year, the EMS levy brought in $6.7 million. Approval from more than half of voters is needed to increase the tax, also known as a levy lid lift.

The election is Tuesday.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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