Once and for all, Y-E-S to EMS

By Rebecca Carr | Aug 04, 2010
Mukilteo voters are once again deciding whether to renew the Emergency Medical Services levy, and if so, at what amount and for how long.  Currently before voters is a measure that would increase the current levy – due to expire Dec. 31 – to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, and this time, the council is asking it to be permanent.

We’re pleased with the many improvements in our EMS over the six years since this was last before voters, and we’re convinced, based on that track record, that both the amount and the permanent status are necessary and will be used wisely.

Voters in 2003 approved the current six-year levy at 35 cents, although changes in property values have lowered that amount to 23 cents over the years.

Resident Charlie Pancerzewski is correct – this levy more than doubles the current rate. But we’re getting more bang for our buck and, thanks to finance director Scott James, we’re getting a clearer picture of the true cost of EMS.

And if we don’t pass this levy in some form in August or November, the amount collected drops to zero, causing a significant financial crisis come Jan. 1.

We watched the turmoil the previous council went through just getting this on the ballot. We watched the measure be watered down in both amount and longevity before voters finally found it palatable enough to pass the third time around.

At that time, the doubters essentially said, “Here’s less money temporarily; let’s see how you make use of it and follow through on your promises. THEN come back and ask us for more and for permanent status.”

Well, they’re back. (Six years goes by fast, doesn’t it?)

Over the past six years we’ve watched our fire department and other city staff follow through with each promise made in passing that levy. Our stations are both staffed 24-7, we have robust enough crews to participate in automatic aid agreements with our neighboring jurisdictions, and Mukilteo now has its own paramedics on staff around the clock.

It’s time to face the reality that the need for EMS is not going away anytime soon. (For that to happen the council would have to not only successfully outlaw stupid behavior, but also all of those late night infomercials pushing miracle cures and bullet-proof constitutions would have to be true.)

We can always go back and change the amount should circumstances change. The permanent status provides a safety net, ensuring that while changes are under consideration, the revenue source doesn’t expire leaving us with zero, as could happen if a temporary levy isn’t renewed.
We’d also like to address the common misperception of a “windfall” when the city transitions to EMS paying for itself without dipping into the general fund.

Not digging a deeper hole does not make for a windfall; it simply means the hole won’t be any deeper. There is no “extra” $560,000 (the amount currently paid out of the general fund to cover the cost of EMS); it’s simply stopping a fast track to failure.

If we went grocery shopping, paid the prices listed on the shelves, then a manager ran after us asking for more money to pay the “true cost” of the items we just purchased, we’d likely think, “That store is run by idiots,” and not return.

It doesn’t make any more sense for our city to do business that way.

Vote YES for EMS in August (save taxpayers the cost of asking again in November). Our staff has kept up its end of the deal; now it’s our turn to honor ours.
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