An operating levy to fund Redmond Fire & Rescue appeared to pass by a 2-1 margin after early returns in last week’s primary election.
It’s the first levy the 110-year-old department has ever taken to voters, and the tax of 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed value will raise $5 million over five years to fund basic operations.
“We’re just so grateful,” said Jeff Puller, the department’s deputy chief. “We were hoping. We were getting good feedback, but there were so many uncertainties with COVID-19.”
An average single-family home in Redmond will pay an additional $56 per year under the levy.
District leaders thought hard about bringing a new tax to voters during a pandemic, but the money was needed, Puller said. Static revenue and increasing operations costs led the district to adopt budgets with significant deficits for the past two years.
The district planned a major campaign to reach voters face-to-face, until COVID-19 hit.
“A lot of the things we would normally do during a campaign, we weren’t able to do, so we had to do some kind of out-of-the box stuff,” Puller said.
Representatives of the district met via conference call with community groups and advertised on social media.
Redmond Fire & Rescue has 60 staff members and an average annual budget of around $10 million. But calls for service have increased 30% over the past six years, and the district’s board expects the upward trend to continue, given the rapid growth of the Redmond area and its aging population.
Last year, the district received 5,999 calls for service. About 85% required a medical response.