Thurston County Medic One has placed a levy measure on next month’s primary ballot.
The levy aims to restore funding to the 1999 voter-approved rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, which was previously reduced to 29 cents per $1,000 due to statutory limitations.
Medic One is a countywide Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system that provides all medical supplies and equipment to Thurston County EMS first responders, including S.E. Thurston Fire Authority, maintaining its services at its own cost. It also provides training to medical responders and free CPR classes to the public, among other services.
Medic One’s reach includes 12 fire departments, two ambulance companies, two hospitals and the 291,000 people in Thurston County.
It also funds 80 percent of paramedic salaries, which are those EMS responders who are on call for serious health obstacles.
“What it does is it provides medical oversight for the various EMTs and first responders (in Thurston County),” said Kurt Hardin, the director of emergency services in Thurston County. “It provides technical information, technical assistance … for the EMS providers out there who respond to the 33,201 EMS calls that took place in 2020, and this year we’re on pace to go over 36,000.”
Restoration of the levy would add an additional 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed value over a span of six years, Hardin said.
After being authorized by voters in 1974, Medic One received a regular levy of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 1990. Then, from 2008 to 2021, county legislative authorities increased its funding by 1 percent each year from 2008 to 2021, Hardin said.
Yet, according to Hardin, taxable values have increased 255 percent from 2002 to 2021, while tax revenue was capped at an increase of 105 percent.
He said that if the assessed values increase at a rate greater than taxation does, levy rates are driven down.
To top it all off, Hardin said the organization’s expenditures have increased by 5 percent every year over the last 10 years and are anticipated to increase even more through 2029.
The measure would increase the tax rate by 6 cents per $1,000 assessed value in 2022, or by $18 for those with a home assessed at $300,000.
Between 2023-2027, the rate would increase by 3 cents per $1,000 of assessed value each year, or by $9 annually for those with a home assessed at $300,000.
All of this amounts to a $63 increase by 2027 for those with a home assessed at $300,000.
“If it doesn’t pass, we’ll have to defer the modernization and replacement of medical equipment,” Hardin said.
He said two medic units are scheduled for replacement in 2023, three units are scheduled for replacement in 2024 and two other units are scheduled for replacement in 2025.
All of the county’s 120 automated external defibrillators and its 13 ventilators also need to be replaced, Hardin said.
If the levy fails, Hardin said Medic One will not be able to add needed aid units. The agency will also have to decrease its financial assistance to fire stations, which includes the funding of supplies and the provision of training, as well as reduce its free CPR program by 64 percent.
Hardin noted the Emergency Medical Services Council provides oversight to Medic One, and emergency medical services across the county. The 13-member body is composed of elected officials, medical professionals, EMS providers and three at-large positions for citizens.
“They made a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners to place the Medic One ballot measure out there based on the current situation with the revenues and expenditures,” he said. “So that’s why the Board of County Commissioners took action on May 4 to place (the levy) on the ballot.”