Fire Service Levy
To improve fire services in the City of Oak Harbor, we are asking voters to consider an increase in property tax levies on the November 8, 2022 General Election ballot. Voters will be asked to consider two separate propositions that will work together to fund needed fire service improvements: a levy lid lift and an excess levy (general obligation bonds).
The levies will provide funding for improved fire protection response times and capabilities, allowing the City to:
- Build and operate a fire station in the southwest area of the City
- Increase minimum staffing
- Replace one 24-year old engine and equip the new station with a Quint truck
- Purchase necessary protective gear and tools
The Reason Additional Funding Is Required
The City of Oak Harbor has grown, mostly in the southwest area. Since the current fire station was built in 1990, the fire department's coverage area has increased from 3.4 square miles to 9.7 square miles (185%) and call volume has increased 91%. The City's population has increased 43% and there are 51% more homes (plus an additional 500 homes are now in the building process). The only fire station in no longer centrally located.
Independent studies found that 25% of Oak Harbor residents live outside of the target response times and recommended the city build a second fire station and increase staffing to reduce response times.
In addition, the City must replace two 24-year-old fire engines. Their replacements will be housed in the new station, one will be replaced with a quint (combination engine and ladder truck).
Additional career and paid-on-call firefighters will be hired to staff the new station 24 hours/day, 7 days/week and provide additional coverage throughout the city.
Fire Service Levies Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Expand/Contract Questions and Answers
As Oak Harbor continues to grow and expand, particularly in the southwest area, fire department response times continue to rise. A 7-8 minute response time to the southwest area is not acceptable.
The two propositions on the ballot work together to fund necessary fire safety improvements. The propositions require different levels of voter consent and must be presented separately.
Proposition 1: Levy Lid Lift
- Supports operating expenses of the second fire station, additional staffing, replacement of a 24-year-old fire engine, and necessary personal protective equipment and tools.
- Requires a simple majority (50% + 1) voter approval.
- Will increase annual property taxes by 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Proposition 2: General Obligation bonds
- Supports the capital purchases for the project:
- construction of the second fire station (21-year bond) and
- purchase a quint ladder truck (12-year bond).
- Requires a supermajority (60% + 1) voter approval.
- Will increase annual property taxes by 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed value (for length of bonds only).
A General Obligation (GO) Bond is an excess levy imposed over and above regular property tax levies. It is a long-term investment that authorizes the City to make capital purchases. Bonds are sold to investors who are repaid with interest over time from property tax collections.
GO Bonds carry the lowest interest rates of all debt alternatives available to cities. Issuing bonds for these projects will cost less than utilizing traditional installment financing options.
A “levy lid lift” is a voter-approved action to increase property tax collection by more than the 1% per year “lid” put in place by Initiative 747 in 2001. Specifically, Initiative 747 limits the amount of property tax a jurisdiction may collect to one percent (1%) more per year plus the value of new construction. The limit remains regardless of inflation or population growth or increased demand for service. The only way to exceed that “lid” is with voter consent
General Obligation bonds carry the lowest interest rate of all debt alternatives available to cities. Like all debt, using General obligation bonds allows projects to be completed earlier at a lower cost and lower tax burden then paying cash.
If citizens vote in favor of the bond financing question on the November 8 ballot, the city will have the authority to issue up to $9.2 million in general obligation bonds for Public Safety.
It's been over 30 years. The city requested a levy/bond in 1989 for the construction of the current fire station on East Whidbey Avenue and the 1992 aerial ladder truck still in service today.
The projects and needs identified are critical for our City to continue keeping pace with our growth and progress ensuring all residents live in a safe, secure community. If the bond does not pass in November, these projects will continue to be a priority moving forward. The City must save up funds to use cash for the construction of the second station, which would take much longer. Or explore other financing options that often come with a higher cost long-term.
Ways You Can Support the Oak Harbor Fire Department
- Learn about the levies and needs of the fire department
- Share flyers and information provided below with your City of Oak Harbor friends/neighbors
- Invite Fire Chief Ray Merrill to discuss the levies at your service club meetings/gatherings
- Learn about fire service on Whidbey Island (review the Map of North Whidbey Island Fire Services (PDF))
Printed materials are available during business hours at these locations in Oak Harbor:
- Fire Station 81 at 855 E Whidbey Avenue
- City Hall at 865 SE Barrington Drive
- The Center at 51 SE Jerome Street
- Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 32630 State Route 20
Get Answers to Your Questions and Talk with Fire Staff
We expect the community to have questions about the levies and invite you to chat with Fire Department staff about the levies:
- Contact Oak Harbor Fire Department at 360-279-4700 or by email
- Follow us on Facebook
- Scheduled events will be posted here, please check back for updates
- Watch the City Council Meetings about the Levy featuring Fire Chief Ray Merrill and Finance Director David Goldman on the City's YouTube Channel