Replacement levy gets backing from residents in three counties

Area voters are willing to dig a little deeper into their pocketbooks to ensure 42 firefighter medics remain ready to answer emergency calls.

In unofficial primary election results released Wednesday morning, voters within Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's service area supported Measure 34-211.

Voters in Washington County overwhelmingly supported the measure with 41,008 votes, or 66.95 percent, to 20,247 votes, or 33.05 percent, rejecting the measure. In Clackamas County, support reached 63.3 percent with 6,820 votes to 3,960 votes, or 36.7 percent voting it down. Multnomah County voters also appear to be approving the measure with 505 votes, or 56.11 percent, to 395 votes, or 43.89 percent, against.

"I'm so humbled by this show of community support," said Fire Chief Mike Duyck as the initial results were released. "Those returns are incredible."

The $109 million five-year local option replacement levy allows the fire district to retain 42 firefighter medics hired since 2000.

The replacement levy’s 20-cent increase over the current rate also adds up to 44 more firefighter medics, funds emergency apparatus and helps fund new stations in areas causing response challenges.

"By endorsing this replacement levy for us, our community is telling us that fast and efficient emergency response remains a top priority," Duyck said. "They clearly want to ensure that we maintain and improve our services."

With voter approval of the measure, TVF&R will be authorized to increase its tax rate up to 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for five years beginning in 2015, when the current levy expires.

For the average homeowner, that translates to an annual cost of $104 — a $46 annual increase — for a home with an assessed value of $230,000.

The replacement levy represents the second time in 25 years that TVF&R has asked taxpayers for a rate increase, and it comes 14 years after the last increase was approved. 

"This investment by our community will make our network of fire stations stronger and enhance our ability to provide crucial life-saving services," Duyck said. "We are so thankful.

"We know this was a huge ask and worked very hard to share our message with the community. We know people need to think long and hard about where to spend their money. This support is a game-changer for us."

Measure 34-211 allows the fire district to continue services and increase staffing and capital purchases at a time the region continues to experience ongoing growing pains, including heavy traffic congestion, an aging population and increases in 911 calls.

The replacement levy would address three of seven trouble areas, where trends in response times need improvement, through a mix of traditional and smaller fire stations and medic units, and in some cases, 40-hour firefighter medic staffing — versus 24-hour.

The levy also helps fund the purchase of land for three new stations — two smaller ones potentially in Raleigh Hills and Charbonneau and a larger one in the Rosemont area of West Linn. The new stations and additional firefighters would eventually improve response times to emergency calls, fire district officials say.

"We are committed to stretching these tax dollars as far as possible," Duyck said. "We're very excited about what's ahead."

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's service area covers the cities of Beaverton, Durham, King City, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin, Rivergrove, West Linn and Wilsonville as well as unincorporated areas within portions of Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties.

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