Voters have narrowly approved a ballot proposal to fund the county’s emergency services, by 64,252 to 42,767 votes, a margin of 60.04 percent, according final election figures from the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office released at 5:15 p.m. Monday.
Because it is a property tax, local Proposition No. 2016-1 required a 60 percent approval margin in order to pass.
Election certification is scheduled Tuesday.
“I’m pretty elated,” said Bellingham Fire Department firefighter Robert Glorioso, president of Local 106 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “I’m pretty happy and honored that the folks of Whatcom County chose to support our EMS service.”
Brett Bonner, who was part of a group opposing the measure, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
In early returns from the Nov. 8 general election, the EMS levy was failing by more than 170 votes. The gap shrank to single digits, and by the most recent count on the day before Thanksgiving, it was passing by 20 votes – a margin of 60.02 percent.
The six-year levy would raise property taxes by 29.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to fund a fifth paramedic ambulance and other benefits for countywide 911 calls requiring advanced life support.
Proponents say a fifth ambulance is overdue in light of the county’s recent population growth, and that reserves for the EMS system have dwindled to almost nothing. About $10 million in reserve funds would build up over the levy’s six-year duration, according to a report by an EMS work group.
Opponents say that is excessive, and contend that the local ambulance system is already good, and those in favor haven’t finished the research on exactly how to spend the money.
No recount is automatically required, because the measure was a voter initiative and not a race between two political candidates, said county Auditor Debbie Adelstein. Citing state law, Adelstein said a proposition recount requires five people to front $25,000 against the cost of a recount at 25 cents per ballot. With 107,019 ballots cast for the measure countywide the total cost “could be well over $25,000,” Adelstein said.
Turnout for the election was 82.56 percent, which Adelstein said is normal for a presidential election.
Robert Mittendorf is a volunteer firefighter with South Whatcom Fire Authority and works within the Whatcom County EMS system.
HOW THE MAPS WORK
In precincts shaded green, the EMS levy passed with 60 percent or more "yes" votes. In precincts shaded red, the levy got less than 60 percent of the "yes" votes or failed outright. To see individual totals, click on each precinct. To zoom in, use the controls embedded in the left side of the map.
Whatcom County results