Fire Chief Dustin Morrow spells out district funding mechanisms and needs. 

Key Peninsula Fire District 16 will return to the voting public for a four-year renewal of its Maintenance and Operation Levy Tuesday, August 4.

“The levy that we ran in 2019 was focused specifically around our EMS operations, the medical side of our house. This levy is our fire side of the house,” said KPFD Chief Dustin Morrow. The levy pays for salaries, training costs, administration and repairs for the fire and life protection services of the district.

The Maintenance and Operation (M&O) levy was first on the ballot in 2012 and reapproved in 2016. Unlike other funding options for the district, the M&O levy requires a specific financial goal. “We don’t get to ask for 35 cents per $1,000, we have to come out and say a dollar amount,” Morrow said. “Then that number, depending on the community’s assessed value, sets the millage rate.”

The 2020 resolution maintains the $800,000 per year target of the last two levies. Although the amount requested remains the same, rising property values have decreased the approximate taxation rate by about 35 percent. Changes on the KP have also brought new challenges for Fire District 16, but according to Morrow the district has decided to leave the M&O levy unchanged for now.

“Although our fire district could use additional funding, we feel like this is not the right time to ask the community that question,” he said, citing uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. “We’re going to work within what we have.” Morrow also mentioned the renewal of the EMS levy in 2019 as a contributing factor to the district’s decision.

The August 4 vote, like previous levy elections, will require a 60 percent supermajority to pass. The total turnout must also equal at least 40 percent of the last general election for the measure to be approved. Despite a distracted public, Morrow said he is confident that voters will turn out.

“The feedback that we’ve received suggests that people are still engaged with us, and will remain engaged with us through the vote,” he said. “It’s a known commodity in the community, and it’s a pretty straightforward ask.”

Morrow also feels that the community pandemic response will contribute to a successful levy campaign. “I feel really excited about how our community has rallied around this entire outbreak, and I think that our fire district has done an amazing job to stay connected to them and provide guidance.”

After the election in August, the funding cycle will continue for Fire District 16. Another EMS levy “lid lift” measure is likely in the next two years to keep up with rising property values on the KP. Morrow also suggested the possibility of FD16 issuing a capital bond at some point in the early 2020s.

“I think that some time in 2022 and 2023 you’re going to see this district in front of the community sharing our needs surrounding apparatus replacement and building upgrades,” he said. “Some of our fixed infrastructure is getting close to or is already at the end of its service life.”