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A Word From Your Fire Chief About the M&O Levy


 

Key Peninsula Community Members,


As I write this, we are less than three weeks away from ballots reaching your mailboxes and just over a month until the August 6 election date. On this ballot, you will find Proposition 1, the renewal of the Key Peninsula Fire Department’s Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy.

 

The Key Peninsula Fire Department is funded by three property tax levies: the Fire levy, Emergency Medical Services levy, and the M&O levy, which will be on your August 6 ballot. The proceeds from the M&O levy are used to support a portion of our staffing, maintain our equipment, and upkeep of our facilities. Voters have approved this levy every four years since 2012. Under Washington law, an M&O levy requires a supermajority (60%) for passage. The last time we ran the levy, in 2020, it passed with a 65% supermajority. The proposition on your ballot seeks to renew the levy at the same $800,000 amount. If approved, there will be no change to your tax bill; you will continue to pay the same M&O levy tax. The County will adjust the levy rate up or down over the years to ensure the District never receives more than the approved $800,000. This levy renewal will enable the Key Peninsula Fire Department to maintain the current level of service and deployment provided to the community. Critical services supported by this levy include full-time staffing of a paramedic unit at Wauna, a fire engine and battalion chief at Home, and a paramedic unit at Longbranch.

 

In my community presentations on the M&O levy and in conversations with citizens, it has been encouraging to see the appreciation for our staff and the services they provide. We have received many positive comments about our new fire engine and the new rescue boat, which you will see on the water this summer. These additions have allowed us to replace aging fire trucks at a much lower cost to the community while also enhancing our water rescue capabilities.

 

In any levy informational campaign, there are concerns about the consequences if it does not pass, and many of you have asked me about this. Unfortunately, these campaigns can also generate rumors that are not truthful and must be addressed to prevent misinformation.

 

First, let me clarify the facts about what will happen if the levy does not pass. If the August levy fails, we will have another opportunity on the November ballot. Should the November ballot measure also fail, $800,000 will be cut from our budget by the end of the year, necessitating difficult decisions. If $800,000 is removed from our budget, we will be forced to eliminate up to 5-6 firefighter positions, given that salaries and benefits constitute nearly 80% of our budget. This may result in the closure of one of our staffed fire stations.

 

While it is important to present the factual impacts of a potential levy failure, I also need to address some rumors that have circulated. One such rumor is that if the M&O levy does not pass, the Key Peninsula would lose ambulance service. This is incorrect. Even if the levy fails, the Key Peninsula will continue to have paramedics responding in ambulances. Response times, however, may increase depending on where the caller lives.

 

Another rumor we heard early in the campaign is that if the District had not purchased the properties in Key Center several years ago, we wouldn’t need the M&O levy. This is also incorrect. The M&O levy has been supported by the community since 2012, long before the properties in Key Center were purchased. The reality is that even if the District had not purchased those properties, the M&O levy would still be needed to maintain our current level of service.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to tell you more about our M&O levy on the August 6 ballot and the services we provide to the community. We will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on July 10, from 6:30 – 8:00 pm, at our Key Center Station to answer questions and comments about the M&O levy. We also have one more “Coffee with the Chief” event before the August 6 election. That will be on August 1, 9 am – 10 am, at our Key Center Fire Station.

 

Thank you,

 

 

Nick Swinhart 

Fire Chief 

Key Peninsula Fire Department



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