Bend Fire and Rescue is hoping a 56-cent increased levy will pass on the May 16 ballot. Since the last levy was passed, Bend Fire says call volume has increased 60%.
“We don’t get to say ‘no’ when somebody calls 911. So we’re sending the same amount of resources to more calls,” Fire Chief Todd Riley said.
The current levy has remained the same since 2014.
“We want to avoid a response-time crisis, which is where we were back in 2012 and 2013,” Riley said.
The goal is to keep response times below six minutes for emergencies in the City of Bend and under nine minutes for rural emergencies.
“When we added that engine at the Pilot Butte Station, we saw for the first time our response times below six minutes for this year of 2023,” Riley said. “We’ve never been below six minutes through those winter months.”
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While there is not a response time crisis yet, we could see one soon, Riley said, if the levy does not pass.
So what exactly is Bend Fire asking for?
“Right now we’re at 20 cents,” Riley said. “We’re asking for 76 cents. It is a 56-cent increase, and this tax will be assessed against your taxable assessed value of your home, not the real market value, the taxable assessed value.”
That’s a total of 76 cents per $1,000. So if you have a home with $400,000 taxable assessed value, that’s $304.
If the increase passes, it will remain the same until 2029.
If it does not pass, Pilot Butte Station firefighters may not have a job.
“The funding for those positions expires the same time as this levy,” Riley said. “Those positions are wrapped up in this new proposed levy as well.”
The equipment needed may also not be in the budget if the new levy is shut down.
The old levy expires on June 30, 2024. The increased levy could start the day after.
It will keep being proposed until it passes or until the 2024 deadline.