Commissioners with Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 have approved a resolution asking voters to consider an EMS levy increase during the November General Election.
Approved unanimously by commissioners during their regular meeting on Thursday night, the resolution asks voters to consider increasing the permanent levy rate for emergency medical services from $0.095 per $1,000 of assessed value to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value as the district seeks to overcome increases in the costs to provide such services.
"The cost of doing business is going up in the EMS world," said Commission Chair Terry Williams, stating current ambulance care for District 20 is being partly funded by money originally set aside for fire services.
Among the financial challenges met by District 20 has been a decrease in revenue generated from patient transports, as the maximum reimbursement allowed through Medicare and other public programs has been decreasing, as well as low payment rates from many insurance plans provided through The Affordable Care Act.
"Our revenue's gone down, and it's getting worse," said Williams, who pointed out, though patient revenue from District 20 is currently being contributed directly to Lewis County Medic One, who provide paramedic services District 20's EMTs cannot provide, these decreases lead to higher contributions from District 20's general budget to help sustain Medic One.
If the new levy rate were approved (with the proposed rate being the highest the district can ask for under state law), it would increase annual EMS funding from $9,823 per year to $51,700 per year, meaning the owner of an $80,000 property would go from paying $7.60 per year in EMS taxes to $40 per year in EMS taxes.
District 20 Chief Rich Underdahl said this additional funding would help to maintain the ambulances used by the district, as well as equipment and supplies such as cots, oxygen, bandages and other tools used to transport and stabilize patients.
"We're just trying to keep it going," Underdahl said of the EMT program, stating the district does not have access to additional revenue sources at this time other than through a levy increase.
With such gatherings as May Day coming up, as well as Independence Day later this year, district officials said they expect to be out talking with residents about what it takes to provide EMS care and answering questions about the levy. Opportunities also exist for those who wish to volunteer in campaigning for levy approval, with members of the commission pointing out state law would not allow them to do so personally.
Those interested in volunteering, or in viewing a copy of the resolution, may contact the district at (360) 295-0906, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday, District 20 staff confirmed the resolution has officially been filed with the Lewis County Auditor's Office.