EMS levy ‘absolutely critical’ to keep some emergency services in Benton County

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. — Voters may see two measures concerning fire districts on their ballots for the primary election. Fire districts in Benton County are asking voters to consider their levies for emergency medical service funding.

The Benton County Fire Protection District #2 is asking people to vote to renew their current and expiring EMS levy. They said this means the Fire District will maintain the ‘highest level of pre-hospital care available.’

“This is absolutely critical to keep the doors open for the ambulance to keep projecting service to our community,” said Dennis Bates, the assistant Chief of the BCFPD #2. He said call volume has increased by 58% since they last asked for funding in 2012.

They also expect housing in the area to rise 10-20%. They said they want to be able to keep up with increasing demands.

The area this impacts includes halfway to West Richland, halfway to Prosser, the Horse Heaven Hills area, and around Rattlesnake Mountain. It’s located in Benton City.

“Without the levy, it decreases funding to our fire department and makes it harder for us to operate the ambulance,” said Bates.

For the fire district, this is not a new tax. They said it’s the restoration of funding to maintain EMS services to the community. The district does not have a permanent levy in place to provide funding to their emergency services.

Fire District #2 looking for a levy renewal—Fire District #4 looking for an levy increase

However, at BCFPD #4, which covers most of the West Richland area, the Fire District is looking to raise taxes on their permanent levy.

Fire Chief of the BCFPD #4, Paul Carlyle said, “We’re trying to reset the levy rate to 50 cents per 1000. This year it dropped to 35 cents per 1000. And so it’s not a new levy or a new tax. We’re just asking for the lid lift on it.”

Chief Carlyle said this levy will greatly affect the district. He said, “If we’re successful in passing this levy, what that means to us is that we’re going to hire some additional personnel. Our call volume has dramatically increased over the last 10 years. And so we need to add some more staff to adjust those higher call volume.”

When looking at your ballot this week, they ask you to vote purely on what you want for your area.

“Should we continue on with our ambulance service? You know, it’s their right to vote yes or no for this.”

READ: Still need to vote in the primary election? Find ballot drop boxes near you.