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King County seeks EMS levy for November ballot

King County Medic One Paramedic Unit. South King Fire and Rescue provides medical response with its aid cars, but King County Medic provides ambulance services for the Federal Way area. - Courtesy photo
King County Medic One Paramedic Unit. South King Fire and Rescue provides medical response with its aid cars, but King County Medic provides ambulance services for the Federal Way area.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

King County has been making the rounds, asking local cities to approve a replacement Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy for November's ballot.

According to county officials, most would not feel the sting of the replacement levy, and would continue to utilize the care provided by the regional system's emergency response teams.

"The task force (a group of 19 elected officials broken down into subcommittees) has recommended that the program continue to be funded via a six-year EMS levy," said Jim Fogarty, division manager for King County Emergency Medical Services, during a special meeting of the council on March 5. "They recommended a levy rate of 33 cents per $1,000 of AV (assessed value) to cover a projected expenditure level of $695 million over the six-year course of the levy program."

Fogarty went on to say that at the beginning of the last levy period in 2008, the average homeowner in Federal Way was paying approximately $89 a year to support the levy. With this new levy package, that price would drop to approximately $65 a year, he said.

"Our system has a levy rate that's at the bottom end of all the levy rates in the state," Fogarty said. "There are 175 taxing districts in the state of Washington, and the regional (EMS) levies, there are four of them, those regional systems are among the lowest out of any systems out there."

Fogarty spent some time selling the council on the regional EMS system, saying that its first responders are held to a higher standard than most in the nation. The system also has one of the best survival rates on cardiac arrest call-outs, according to Fogarty. Within the greater regional system, 52 percent of all cardiac arrest calls survive, he said. In major metropolitan areas like Detroit or Los Angeles, that figure is usually below 10 percent, and in the case of Detroit, less than 5 percent.

"So you can see, over long periods of time, our system and the way it's designed have been very successful in outcomes for cardiac arrest, and we're very proud of that," Fogarty said. "We have a goal…of 60 percent survival rates, and we're striving toward that goal, and hopefully we'll be able to achieve it within this next levy period."

Fogarty told Councilmember Bob Celski that in the event property values saw a dramatic increase, the levy as it currently sits would not increase, even if it was able to take more taxes from property owners.

Councilmember Susan Honda asked what would happen if just one city balked at approving the levy, with Fogarty saying the county would be unable to put the levy on the ballot, and EMS services would fall to local cities.

The council unanimously approved a resolution in support of the levy during its regular meeting later that evening.

FYI

South King Fire and Rescue provides medical response with its aid cars, but King County Medic provides ambulance services for the Federal Way area.

 

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