The Board of Directors for Marion County Fire District #1 passed a resolution asking voters to renew the local option levy for emergency services during the November 3 General Election. The local option levy accounts for almost 30 percent of funding for emergency services for communities served by the Fire District. This will be at the same rate of $0.71 per$1,000 of assessed property value for a period of five years.
In May, the Fire District had asked voters to increase the local option levy by 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Then COVID-19 hit, causing economic uncertainty. The ballot measure was not approved, which resulted in the entire levy failing for the July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021 fiscal year.
As a result, the Fire District was forced to make service level cuts to balance its budget. These actions included reducing staffing levels from 14 to 10 firefighter/EMTs per shift and cutting hours of service for apparatus and stations that respond to emergencies in Macleay, Labish Center, and Clear Lake. This is causing increased response times of up to five minutes for parts of the Fire District or longer when mutual aid is required from neighboring fire agencies.
Fire Chief Kyle McMann says that these impacts are being felt district-wide. Personnel and apparatus in these communities also respond to emergency calls in Four Corners, Middle Grove, Pratum, Brooks, and Chemeketa.
Employees also have agreed to almost $1 million in reduced wages and benefits to balance the budget. These voluntary concessions have reduced the number of emergency personnel layoffs to keep as many “boots on the ground” as possible. Fire Chief Kyle McMann says that everyone is pulling together to get through this difficult time.
“This was a big hit for Marion County Fire District #1 and the communities we serve,” said Chief McMann. “We hope that people will consider restoring funding for emergency services at the same amount they approved before.”