Bremerton voters will be asked to support fire levy

Bremerton voters will probably be asked to approve a six-year emergency services levy for the fire department this August, pending a final decision by the city council.

The council will almost certainly put the 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation levy on the August 5 ballot. The council, though, needs to decide ahead of time what to do if that measure fails and whether or not to schedule a second election for November 4 if that were to happen.

During a recent city council study session, council member Eric Younger advocated for only asking voters to approve the levy one time.

"If it doesn't pass (in August) and we'll put on the ballot in November and give it another try, what are we telling our voters?" Younger asked. "I think we should have one shot, you make your case and then your done."

Mayor Patty Lent, though, cautioned against that approach.

"You cannot allow this to fail," she said, urging every council member to get behind the measure if it only appears on the August ballot. She said the levy is too important to the fire department and city to take any chances with it not passing.

"If you have reservations, we need a second chance," Lent said.

Council member Roy Runyon said he favored a "Plan A" and "Plan B" approach, but did raise another concern. Runyon talked about the 2008 levy campaign in which voters were told that five new emergency medical technicians would be hired. Following a downturn in the economy, only two additional EMTs have actually been hired.

"What I'm getting is some pushback from out citizens about those five EMTs," Runyon said. "So, that's going to be an issue. That's going to come up again."

The fire department first implemented an emergency services levy in 1979. It failed that first time out, but seven levies since then have passed. In 1997, the rate increased from 25 cents to 50 cents. The levy generates a little over the $1 million for the Bremerton Fire Department, which has a total budget of about $8.5 million.

The city council is slated to make a decision about when to run the replacement EMS levy during a May 7 business meeting.

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