By Elon Glucklich
Bend voters said yes to a five-year levy supporting the city’s fire department, while voters just outside the city limits also passed a levy for rural fire services.
Measure 9-98 led by a comfortable margin late Tuesday. The levy is expected to raise about $1.8 million annually for fire protection in the city over the next five years, Bend Fire Chief Larry Langston said.
“We’re feeling a lot of relief. This meant so much to the city as far as our ability to work toward bringing on staff,” Langston said.
He said the funding should help the department reduce emergency response times and hire extra paramedics. Starting July 1, the levy raises taxes by 20 cents per $1,000 of the assessed value of a homeowner’s property. A home assessed at $250,000 would pay $50 a year under the levy.
One of Langston’s selling points for the levy has been this year’s expiration of two bonds property owners throughout Deschutes County have been paying since 1996.
Bonds for the county sheriff’s office and library come off the books this year. Langston said the net effect would be a 6-cents-per-$1,000 property tax increase if Measure 9-98 and the levy for the Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District No. 2 passed, since the expiring bonds essentially lower homeowners’ property taxes.
The rural levy, Measure 9-97, led by a slimmer margin late Tuesday but also looked likely to pass.
The measure is expected to raise about $400,000 annually for Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District No. 2, which encompasses more than 200 square miles around the city.
About 20,000 residents live in the rural area, and Bend firefighters have long responded to emergencies in both areas.
Measure 9-97 raises property taxes at the same 20-cent rate, but for rural homeowners.
Langston pitched the levies to the Bend City Council in August, saying two additional ambulance crews could cut response times in the city by half and in the rural area by about one-third.
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