Bend City Council passed a resolution to support a five-year local option levy for fire and emergency medical services in the May 16, 2023 election.
Bend Fire & Rescue, which serves the City of Bend and Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District #2, will ask the voters for an increase and renewal of a levy that will provide essential funding that will allow them to keep pace with an increasing call volume and growing demands for service.
A local option levy, or operating levy, is a tax voted on by the community that will allow Bend Fire & Rescue to fund and maintain staff such as firefighter/paramedics and expenses related to staffing. If approved, the new levy would take the place of an existing levy that is set to expire in June 2024. The operating levy is proposed at 76 cents per $1,000 of taxable assessed value (a 56-cent increase from the existing levy). The proposed levy equates to $19 per month for a home with a taxable assessed value of $300,000.
“The levy rate has not increased since it was initially approved by voters in 2014. Our community is growing, our call volume has doubled and we are working with funding from nearly a decade ago,” said Fire Chief Todd Riley.
Currently, Bend Fire & Rescue is relying on temporary “bridge” funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to staff Station 306, located at the base of Pilot Butte, with nine firefighter/paramedics that respond to calls in Bend’s core. This staffing has decreased the area each of the department’s stations serve, helping to lower the amount of time it takes for crews to get to people experiencing an emergency, and increasing positive patient outcomes. When the ARPA funding runs out and the levy expires in 2024, the community could be faced with longer response times in the event of an emergency.
“Bend Fire & Rescue has a remarkable reputation of being innovative with their staffing and programs to make the most out of the community’s tax dollars,” said Mayor Melanie Kebler. “It’s time for us to support our emergency responders so that they can continue to provide excellent service, saving lives and property, for Bend and the surrounding rural community.”
In December, Bend Fire & Rescue launched a representational phone survey to gauge how Bend residents perceive fire and medical services, and to assess support of a levy. The survey results showed support by both City and Rural voters. Learn more about the results here.
Learn more about Bend Fire & Rescue, and the proposed levy at bendoregon.gov/fire-levy.
About Bend Fire & Rescue
Bend Fire & Rescue is the only provider of essential fire and emergency medical services to Bend and the surrounding rural community. Bend Fire & Rescue provides the primary ambulance service to over 1,450 square miles, which includes key highway corridors from Mt. Bachelor to the west and 70 miles to the east of Bend. They are an American Heart Association “Gold” award recipient for their cardiac survival numbers, which are among the best in the nation. They also provide outstanding service in structural and wildland fire suppression, fire prevention and investigation, public education, technical rescue and hazardous materials response.