Voters in and around Maple Valley will determine in November if they want to re-invest in their fire district.
Because the Maple Valley Fire District is not a city agency, their funding is reliant solely on ballot measures and district leaders say if this initiative does not pass it means the department could see increased layoffs and slower response times.
"This is our last opportunity to get funding for 2018. And we have enough reserved that we could potentially make it through 2018 without having to lay anybody off if this measure fails, but at the end of 2018 we will have to lay off folks," Deputy Chief Jeff Didonado said. "Our funding has dramatically decreased over the years and we have not been able to pass any measures since 2006 really."
One family that knows about the challenges facing the fire department is the Lerquin family. The Lerquin's had a fire at their house in early October and the first arriving unit was not equipped to fight the flames.
"Station 83 only had an aid car. They relocated the engine to another station," Corey Lerquin said.
Due to funding cuts, the station closest to their house is not full time. Thankfully everyone made it out safe, including their dog, who was stuck inside until firefighters were able to rescue him.
The Lerquin's now are urging the community to pass the fire levy in November.
"The response time can make a world of difference. Precious minutes. You just don’t what could have happened if they were able to respond faster, maybe we wouldn’t be looking at a total loss," Miranda Lerquin said. "So I definitely think it’s important for people to be aware that it’s important to vote and know that this could happen to them. You never think it’s going to happen to you, but it could."
So what does it mean for voters? It means, if passed, it will restore the tax levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the same amount it has been in recent years. That tax levy rate would be an increase from its current rate, however, which is $1.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
"Because we are not a city fire department our only funding mechanism is through ballot initiatives, that’s the only way we can get money. It’s not a matter of only changing someone elses budget to support the fire department," Deputy Chief Didonado said. "We need the support of the community. We need to have them believe that we have a voted board of commissioners that manages their money well and that when we’re asking for money it is out a true need."
If the initiative fails it will mean nearly 2 million dollars in lost revenue.
The Lerquin's, in the midst of tearing down their home, hopes voters choose to re-invest in fire protection.
"We just see this as an opportunity to turn a really horrible situation into an opportunity to share the message that it is important that we are supporting our local fire department," Miranda Lerquin said.