The future of Bend firefighters is now in the hands of voters.
The department recently hired more staff, but is at risk of losing money for payroll. The Bend City Council approved a 5-year, $65 million operational levy Wednesday to be out on the ballot this May.
The levy will provide funding for current and additional staff if approved by voters.
“We need to make sure that we are keeping pace with the increased calls for service,” said Bend and Fire Rescue Chief Todd Riley.
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Riley says that in the last ten years, call volume has gone up 60% and Bend has grown roughly 30% in that same timeframe. The operational levy would offset the increased volume.
The current tax rate is 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed taxable value. If passed, that would more than triple the tax rate, going from 20 cents to 76 cents.
“The reason for the increase is because of the cost of doing business has gone up and our revenue has not changed. So essentially, we’re operating with revenue from 2014,” said Riley.
Bend Fire and Rescue says approving a new levy is necessary to allow it to prevent response times from increasing and to continue to provide fire and emergency medical services to the community at an acceptable level of service.
The levy will provide ongoing funding for nine firefighters/paramedics and add six firefighters/paramedics and three emergency medical technicians.
“We rely on community support to operate and we’re thankful for the support in the past levees,” said Riley. “We’re hoping that we get supported in this levee and we’re not asking for anything that we don’t immediately need.”