County Commissioners set EMS Levy split
November 7, 2019
DAYTON–No changes were made to service areas or to tax distributions to the three fire districts. The estimated $507,763 levy amount for 2020 would be split as follows for the three fire districts: Fire District No. 1 - $54,697, Fire District No. 2 - $36,721, Fire District No. 3 - $416,345.
Jeromy Phinney, District No. 3 Fire Chief, presented the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Levy as a representative of the EMS Levy Board. Phinney stated that this board is required to meet at least once a year to recommend the following: amount of the levy, any “lid lift” (a majority vote by registered voters to exceed a taxing districts levy limit, also known as “levy lid override”), and any modifications to Exhibit A (which shows the EMS area served and tax levy distribution).
Phinney emphasized that EMS money can only go to fire districts and the three fire districts split the amount. He further emphasized that Attorney Brian Snure (of Des Moines, Wash., whose law practice specifically focuses on special purpose districts, to include fire districts) advised that the Sheriff’s office cannot use EMS funds because they do not run an ambulance service and are not a licensed EMS agency.
It was recommended to increase the EMS levy applied to current property owners by the one percent maximum allowed under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 84.55.0101 (known as the “101% limit” rule). This one percent increase is estimated to be an additional $4,691 in 2020 tax revenue from existing properties. For new construction, in 2020 the EMS Levy would bring an estimated approximate $34,000 in additional tax revenue. (Regarding new construction, the $34,000 is an early estimate. Phinney added that Property Assessor Chris Mills suggested the amount should be more like $40,000, the EMS Levy Board made a motion to ask for $50,000 for new construction value.)
In 2019, the amount of the EMS Levy was $469,116. For 2020, the total EMS Levy is estimated to be $507,763. Phinney stated that if the EMS Levy dollars go away, three employees would be cut and half the ambulance service would be affected. A used ambulance was recently purchased as a way to save money.
A voter approved levy lid lift allows a taxing district to increase its highest lawful regular property tax levy by more than the one percent limit up to, but not exceeding its statutory maximum levy rate for one year or more. (Source: an ISSUE BRIEF (based on RCW law) from the Washington Library Association) Phinney pointed out that the EMS Levy rate for 2020 would be “about 50 cents” (more specifically, .493849 cents per thousand dollars).