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Fire district asks for property tax hike in Scappoose

Scappoose Fire District pitches 30 cent increase per $1,000 assessed value to fund more staff, ambulance service

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A replacement tax levy to fund Scappoose Fire District will appear on the May 17 ballot. The measure proposes to raise the current levy from 94 cents to $1.24 per $1,000 assessed value.Scappoose Fire District customers will be asked to vote on a property tax hike to support increased staffing levels.

A replacement local option levy will be on the May 17 ballot for those who reside within the district.

If approved, the current levy of 94 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value would be replaced by a tax of $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed value, which would take effect in November 2017.

For a house valued at $250,000, the annual tax would increase from $235 to $310, a 24 percent increase.

Scappoose Fire Chief Mike Greisen said the levy will help the district employ two additional part-time medical staff and help retain two firefighter EMTs that were brought on in 2015 with the help of grant funding, which expires in 2017.

Increased staffing levels would provide the fire district with 24-hour emergency response with three ambulances, including one staffed with volunteer firefighters.

“We're so busy that we went out for a federal grant to bring somebody on during the daytime when we're short volunteers,” Greisen said. “They work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and that grant really made a difference. The only way we can keep the position is with additional funding.”

Scappoose Fire District currently employs 17 people, including nine firefighter paramedics, three administrative employees, a fire chief, division chief and three firefighter/EMTs. The district utilizes 29 volunteers, according to the district.

Greisen said he's anticipating an increase in the number of patient transports following the relocation of Legacy Urgent Care St. Helens to Scappoose.

Greisen said he's received no official word or communication from Legacy Health about the move, which will shift responsibility for ambulance transports from the facility from CRF&R to his crew in Scappoose.

“We have an issue coming to Scappoose," Greisen said. "Legacy is moving the urgent care from St. Helens to Scappoose. That will put an additional 240 transfers to the Portland area by ambulances. If that changes to Scappoose, we are gonna have a hard time providing that service."

The last fire levy was approved by Scappoose voters five years ago, and the rate has not changed in the last 10 years.

The proposed replacement levy is expected to generate nearly $7.3 million between 2017 and 2022.

If it fails, property taxes on a typical home in Scappoose would decline by about $188 annually, according to a ballot summary.

The ballot measure comes amid talks of Scappoose Fire District sharing its fire chief with CRF&R. The two agencies operate under a mutual aid agreement that stipulates each district will respond to and aid the other on calls when needed.