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SKFR levy kickoff slated

The official kickoff for South Kitsap Fire and Rescue’s campaign for a renewal of its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 17 at the Port Orchard Fred Meyer.

In the meantime, the fire district has updated its website with more information about what voters will be asked to consider in May.

Chief Wayne Senter said the levy is not a new tax, but will be a renewal of the 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value that South Kitsap voters approved for EMS in 2003.

Since that time, Senter said the 50 cents has decreased to approximately 32 cents, meaning if the EMS levy is renewed, homeowners will pay only 18 cents more per $1,000 than they are currently.

For the average SK homeowner, Senter said that amounts to less than $5 a month.

To illustrate how a renewal would affect homeowner’s tax bills, Senter, his deputy chief and the SKFR board of commissioners posted the value of their homes and determined how much each would pay if the 50-cent levy were approved.

Commissioner Dusty Wiley, whose home has a 2009 assessed value of $669,890, would would pay $10.05 more in taxes a month if the levy were renewed. Commissioner Dave Gelsleichter, with a $200,830 home, would pay $3.01 more, and Senter, with a $346,680 home, would pay $5.20 more a month.

The average monthly increase for all their homes would be $6.38.

The fire district’s Web site — www.kitsapfire7.org — also has a link to a worksheet that each homeowner can use to determine his or her potential tax increase.

If approved, Senter said the renewal will allow SKFR to keep a total of 30 firefighter/ EMTs and firefighter/paramedics on staff. Without renewal, however, Senter said the levy expires at the end of 2009 and his district will “not be able to afford to keep those 30 staff members aws of Jan. 1, 2010,” and four of its seven stations will no longer be staffed: Glenwood, Burley/Olalla, Banner and Gorst.

In addition, if the levy expires, SKFR will discontinue its paramedic program and cease to offer Advanced Life Support responses.

If it is renewed, Senter said the 50-cent levy will allow his district to maintain current staff levels, along with hiring 12 more firefighter/EMTs “to help maintain response times in our entire response area.”

In addition, the levy renewal will allow the district to “staff a fire station closer to the Manchester community to serve that area and the urban growth areas of Port Orchard.”

Senter said soon he will begin attending community meetings to present the issues surrounding the levy renewal in person.

“This is absolutely the worst time to do this,” Senter said last month, referring to asking voters for more money given the state of the economy nationwide. “But if the (Emergency Medical Services) levy is not renewed, it will devastate our department.”

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