Local Election

In new count, Whatcom EMS levy still failing by razor margin

The countywide EMS levy would raise property taxes by 29.5 cents per $1,000 of valuation, or about an extra quarter per day for those who own homes worth $300,000.
The countywide EMS levy would raise property taxes by 29.5 cents per $1,000 of valuation, or about an extra quarter per day for those who own homes worth $300,000. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

A levy on the ballot to better fund ambulance service in Whatcom County lost ground by a few dozen votes Wednesday as ballots trickled in on the second day of counting.

As of Wednesday evening, the “yes” votes led 53,471 to 36,075. Sixty percent of the vote is needed for the levy to pass, however.

So with 59.71 percent voting in favor, the levy is failing by fewer than 260 votes. Thousands of ballots still await counting.

The countywide EMS levy would raise property taxes by 29.5 cents per $1,000 of valuation, or about an extra quarter per day for those who own homes worth $300,000.

Proponents say Whatcom County needs the things this new tax would pay for: a fifth ambulance staffed by paramedics, an administrator to run the EMS system, and about $10 million in reserves. By the end of this year, reserves for the local Advanced Life Support system will have dwindled to less than $300,000.

Opponents counter that research on how to spend the money is still incomplete, and that the current ambulance service is already good.

The levy would expire in six years.

The first ballot count Tuesday night came in at about as close as it gets: failing by two votes, with more than 70,000 votes cast. A second count later in the night widened the gap, with the measure failing by close to 180 votes.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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