By Hallie McCurdy, Assistant Fire Marshal, West Pierce Fire & Rescue
The West Pierce Board of Commissioners voted May 1, 2013 to place a two-year maintenance and operations levy request on the August 6th ballot. This two-year request is for $11.2 million dollars each year, replacing the existing levy. The levied amount will be collected in 2014 and 2015. The levy funds over 35% of the District’s operating budget. Since the last levy request in 2011, the overall assessed valuation of Lakewood and University Place properties has dropped 15.8%, bringing fire department tax revenues to their lowest levels in 6 years. With approval of this levy, it is projected homeowners in the District will pay less in total taxes to West Pierce than they paid in 2011.
West Pierce Fire & Rescue holds a Class 3 rating from the Washington State Survey and Rating Bureau, one of only three fire departments in Pierce County, along with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue and the City of Tacoma Fire Department, to receive such a high rating. Renewal of this levy will provide the funding necessary to maintain the high level of service that is currently provided.
In this challenging economy, the District has worked very hard to contain costs through a variety of methods. Employees have taken a variety of concessions over the past four years saving the district over $1.3 million. The 2011 merger of the University Place Fire Department and Lakewood Fire Department allowed the district to eliminate redundant positions and programs saving over $900,000 annually. The district has also aggressively sought out grant funding, receiving over $3 million in grants since merging in 2011. As Chief Jim Sharp stated “I am very proud of our efforts to provide high quality services to the community in the most cost effective method possible. Everyone in the department has been involved in making a difference. Through employee concessions we have truly seen 100% of the department step up to help cut operating costs.”
West Pierce Fire & Rescue is an all hazards fire/rescue department. They staff seven fire stations 24/7 throughout the communities of University Place and Lakewood, providing fire suppression, paramedic response and transport, technical rescue, marine rescue, hazardous materials response, fire code enforcement and a wide range of fire and injury prevention classes in the Clover Park and University Place School Districts as well as other public forums.