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January 16, 2024

Skagit Board of County Commissioners to hold public hearing to consider EMS levy renewal

The Skagit Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on January 22, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. to consider a resolution to place an emergency medical services (EMS) levy renewal on the April 23, 2024, special election ballot. The community is invited to join the hearing to learn more about the proposal and provide testimony for the record.

Residents can attend and provide comments in-person in the Commissioners’ hearing room at 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon, WA, 98273, or via Zoom by using the login information available on the Commissioner’s webpage, www.skagitcounty.net/countycommissioners

The hearing will also be available to watch on TV21.

The EMS levy must be renewed by voters every six years, and the current levy is set to expire at the end of 2024. The purpose of the ballot measure is to renew the levy at a sufficient rate to continue funding 24-hour EMS response.

Skagit County funds a countywide EMS system that provides 24/7 life-saving medical response and ambulance transport to 132,000 residents across Skagit County covering 1,731 miles. Skagit County provider agencies are ready every day for emergencies across the county. Last year, Skagit County EMS provider agencies responded to more than 18,000 calls and provided over9,200 ambulance transports to area hospitals.

In the last three years, call volumes have increased by 17 percent, which is primarily due to the area’s growth and an aging population. As a result, costs for medical supplies, fuel, equipment, personnel, and ambulance replacements have all gone up.

Skagit County EMS is funded by a voter-approved EMS levy limited to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The EMS levy was last renewed by voters in 2018 at $0.44 per $1,000. Since then, the rate has dropped to $0.32. The county is proposing to renew the levy at a rate of $0.47 to manage higher call volumes and costs to provide services.

The $0.15 levy rate increase would fund life-saving paramedics and emergency medical technicians, medical supplies, training, medications, and other essential equipment. For example, ambulances have reached the end of their usable lives and need to be replaced at an average cost of $400,000 each. Cardiac monitors and defibrillators also need to be replaced at a cost of $50,000 each. If the EMS levy is not renewed by voters, the lack of funding will significantly impact the ability of Skagit County EMS agencies to provide life-saving response and ambulance transport for residents and visitors.

The $0.15 levy rate increase would cost the owner of a $555,000 home (median assessed value) an additional $83.25 per year or $6.94 per month for 24-hour EMS response.
Why did the levy rate drop?

There is a common misconception that revenue increases annually by the same amount as assessed property value. That is not the case. Levy rates drop as property values rise to limit taxing agencies like Skagit County EMS to approximately the same amount of revenue per year plus a one percent increase allowed by state law. This means if property values increase by double digits, Skagit County EMS is still limited to just a one percent revenue increase over the previous year. The one percent increase allowed by state law does not keep up with inflation and costs to provide emergency services as call volumes rise.

Learn more about the EMS levy at www.skagitcounty.net/EMSlevy or contact Skagit County EMS at 360-416-1830 or joshp@co.skagit.wa.us.