Levy Funding Would Hire Personnel to Reduce Response Times

 Marion County Fire District #1 is holding three virtual meetings to answer questions about a local option levy request that is on the May 18 election ballot. Twelve firefighter/paramedics were laid off last year due to budget cuts when the Fire District’s local option levy was not renewed by voters. Since that time, response times have increased by more than a minute.

A fire can double in size every 30 seconds. In 60 seconds, patients can experience brain and heart muscle damage from lack of oxygen due to stroke or heart attack.

With 12 fewer firefighter/paramedics, Chief McMann says the number of staffed apparatus is down to three units compared to 5.5 units before budget cuts. At times, there are no units available to respond or just one unit to cover the Fire District’s 80 square miles of service territory.

In 2020, MCFD#1 responded to 8,118 emergency calls – a 50 percent increase compared to seven years ago. Loss of the last local option levy meant a 30 percent cut in the revenue it had to provide emergency services.

“We’re trying to respond to 50 percent more calls with 12 less personnel, even more if you count the number of volunteers who have left due to burn out,” said Fire Chief Kyle McMann.

Chief McMann has a brief presentation about the local option levy, and will take questions from participants. These meetings will be held virtually at 7:00 p.m. on   April 15, and at 6:30 p.m. on April 27 and May 12. Community members can access the meetings through the Fire District’s website (www.mcfd1.com) or Facebook page (/MarionCountyFireDistrict1).

The local option levy would last for five years and cost $59 yearly or $4.92 a month per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value. (A home’s assessed value is lower than its market value.) Funding would be used to hire back nine full-time firefighter/paramedics. This would increase the number of responding emergency units to four, including a dedicated three-person engine company 24 hours a day.

“We are asking community members to take a few minutes and learn more about this important issue,” said Chief McMann. “We are struggling, and the current situation is not safe for our community or its firefighters.”

MCFD#1 is an independent taxing district and receives no revenue from Marion County, the state or federal government. It operates under a balanced budget and has passed all its independent financial audits. More information about the Fire District and the local option levy can be found at www.mcfd1.com.