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Fire District News

Posted on: May 12, 2020

Fire District Sees Higher Costs from COVID-19

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Like many fire districts, Mountain View Fire and Rescue is experiencing higher costs due to the coronavirus emergency, or COVID-19. Fire District officials say that they are prepared to respond in a pandemic, but supply costs are significantly higher.

“We train for this. We know what to do in a pandemic,” said Fire Chief Greg Smith. “It’s just that the demand for things like personal protective equipment for firefighters has skyrocketed. This makes a normal EMS response more expensive.”

For example, protective masks that sold for a dollar months ago can cost as much as six dollars each now. The costs of all emergency medical supplies have increased, including hand sanitizer, gloves, gowns and disinfectant. The Fire District also established a quarantine facility early on for emergency personnel who may have been exposed to COVID-19 before protocols were in place. It also anticipates higher personnel costs due to overtime if some are exposed and have to quarantine.

The pandemic hit at a time when Mountain View Fire and Rescue was already communicating with the community about its need for additional funding. It plans to ask voters to approve a temporary Maintenance and Operations Levy (M&O Levy) during the August 4 Primary Election ballot. If approved by voters, funds would be used for personal protective gear for firefighters, medical equipment, a fire engine and water tender, and maintenance projects for fire stations to extend their usable lives.

“It’s true that COVID-19 has increased costs. However, the additional funding for other capital projects pre-existed the pandemic,” said Chief Smith. “All of these items are important to provide for emergency responses.”

The temporary M&O Levy would be $0.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value and last for four years. The cost would be $9.60 a month for the owner of a $384,000 home (an average for the area). The M&O Levy would start being collected in the spring of 2021.

Daily operations at Mountain View Fire and Rescue are funded through a regular Fire Levy paid through property taxes. In 2013, voters approved additional temporary funding through a Maintenance and Operations Levy (M&O Levy) of $0.30 per $1000 of assessed property value to replace revenue lost during the last recession. That M&O Levy expired in 2017, and was only the second time the Fire District had requested additional revenue from taxpayers in its 66-year history.

Call volumes increased almost six percent last year for the Fire District, which responds to approximately 2,200 emergencies a year. The Fire District is limited to a one percent annual revenue increase in its Fire Levy by state law, which is not keeping up with the demand for service.

More information about the M&O Levy can be found at www.mvfire.org. The Fire District is looking for ways to share information about the M&O Levy with the public, including community service groups, homeowner associations, and parent-teacher groups. Please contact Chief Greg Smith with questions or to schedule a virtual presentation at 253-735-0284 or chiefsmith@mvfire.org.

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