EMS Levy Lid Lift

What we do

We provide fire suppression and emergency medical service (EMS) to 46,000 people over 120 square miles, including the city of Stanwood and Arlington. We respond to 10,000 calls per year – of which 86 percent are for EMS. We operate under a balanced budget and have passed all financial and accountability audits by the state.

How we are funded

We are funded through two property tax levies for fire and EMS. Voters approved a fire levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2021 and an EMS levy of $0.50 per $1,000 in 2015. Since 2015, the EMS levy rate has dropped to $0.28.

Why did the levy rate drop?

Each year we are allowed to collect a set amount of revenue. State law limits us to that amount plus one percent more per year. Even if property values double, we can only collect one percent more. This means that the levy rate falls as property values rise to limit our budget to the same amount per year plus that one percent increase (or any other voter-approved increase).

This is called “levy compression” and impacts our ability to provide emergency services.

EMS accounts for 86 percent of all emergency calls

We respond to 10,000 calls per year – of which 86 percent are for medical emergencies. We provide the highest level of emergency care possible outside a hospital known as Advanced Life Support (ALS). Our EMS program is staffed with highly trained paramedics who can:

  • Start intravenous lines
  • Administer medication
  • Provide advanced airway management to help patients breathe
  • Detect early signs of heart attack and interpret EKG readings
  • Perform other lifesaving care for trauma, heart attack, stroke and critical infections

What is an EMS levy lid lift?

From time to time, we must ask voters to restore our EMS levy. This is known as a levy lid lift, and it helps us keep up with higher call volumes and costs to provide service.

Voters approved an EMS levy rate of $0.50 in 2015. Since it took effect in 2016, the rate has dropped to $0.28 while call volumes have increased by 27 percent.

There are times when emergency personnel are out of service for up to four hours while transporting a patient to the hospital. This leads to longer response times.

Higher call volumes are also driving up costs for personnel, equipment, fuel, maintenance, and medical supplies.

Lid lift will reduce response times and improve service

We are considering asking voters to restore the EMS levy to $0.50 per $1,000 in the August 2023 primary election. The revenue from the lid lift would fund:

  • Up to six firefighter/EMTs or firefighter/paramedics per shift to provide an additional transport unit and staff Station 96 in Freeborn full time
  • Replacement of three ambulances
  • Training programs to ensure residents receive the most up-to-date EMS care possible

What will this cost me?

The owner of a $450,000 home would pay an additional $99 per year or $8.25 per month.

Fire Chief John Cermak welcomes your questions at .