Ambulance Utility Fee

The Arlington City Council is considering adoption of an Ambulance Utility Fee that would be added to your monthly utility bill to ensure public safety is sustainably funded and staffed to support our community.

The City Council is considering this fee after four years of intensive study to find a sustainable model to fund Emergency Medical Services (EMS). EMS services are currently funded through an EMS Property Tax Levy and fees paid by other jurisdictions that contract with the City of Arlington for services. This still leaves a $1.5 million gap in funding that must be filled with funds from the General Fund, impacting other programs and services. The Council and City directors have carefully considered all options to ensure the community needs for public safety services are met.

Materials from July 2, 2018 Public Hearing

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Ambulance Utility Fee? 

The Ambulance Utility Fee is a $15 per month per billable unit charge on businesses’ and residents’ water, sewer and storm water bill to sustainably fund public safety services. The new fee would apply to all single family homes, multi-family units, and businesses within the City limits.

Similar to what is currently in place for our water, sewer and stormwater utilities, low income senior citizens and low income disabled residents would be eligible for a 40% discount of the fee. A short application may be required in order to receive the discount.

 Where will my money go?

The revenues from the Ambulance Utility will go directly into the EMS fund and under state law must be specifically used for EMS purposes.

Why is the fee necessary? 

The City of Arlington is proposing an Ambulance Utility Fee to ensure public safety is sustainably funded and staffed to support our community.

The fee addresses concerns around call response times and increases in homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse in and around our community.

What are the benefits of the fee? 

The Ambulance Utility Fee funds increasing public safety services and provides relief to the General Fund, allowing us to hire new police officers and fire personnel to serve the community. Recruitment and hiring of two new police officers will begin immediately on passage by the City Council. In addition, Council has committed to hire three fire personnel and one additional police officer, a domestic violence coordinator, and a police services officer over the next three years.

 Why an Ambulance Utility Fee? 

The City Council and City directors have carefully considered all options to ensure the community needs for public safety services are met. After four years of intensive study, City Council recommends the Ambulance Utility Fee as the best way to achieve these goals with a sustainable funding model. The Ambulance Utility fee is the least expensive to the citizens of all the options they explored.

The city’s funds have largely recovered from the Great Recession. The one account that has not recovered is the EMS fund. Emergency Medical Service calls have increased much faster than the taxes that pay for the service.  With the increase in the number of calls and the decrease in insurance payments received from insurance companies including Medicare and Medicaid, EMS has limited opportunities for increasing revenue. With the demand for service, EMS is experiencing response times will not be able to keep up with the current service level. 

The City Council has made the choice to provide a subsidy to EMS from the General Fund for the past four years while it has explored potential solutions to the problem. This short term borrowing until a solution is found cannot be sustained any longer.  Without changes to the insurance reimbursement schedules and with annual rising costs above 4%, the Council has studied all the options searching for a sustainable funding path.  This $1.5 Million subsidy from the General Fund has restricted the city financially from adding additional police staff to address current crime rates.

Has this been implemented in other jurisdictions? 

This is a sustainable funding model that has proven successful to support and grow public safety in communities across Washington state.

 How is EMS funded now? 

EMS services are currently funded through an EMS Property Tax levied at a maximum of $0.50/thousand dollars of assessed value. It is supported by transportation costs charged to users and fees provided by other jurisdictions that do not have their own public safety services and utilize Arlington to provide those services.

Even with these funding mechanisms there is still a shortfall to cover current costs. To fill that gap, the City has used its General Fund to ensure that services are fully funded. Taking from the General Fund makes it difficult to fund public safety and has restricted public safety from adding staff.

The Ambulance Utility Fee ensures that public safety is sustainably funded and staffed, without dipping into the General Fund.

With all of the new construction, how is this not funding the gap in public safety spending?

All property owners contribute to public safety funding through the EMS Property Tax Levy, but all of the new construction it is not enough to fill the gap in funding that currently exists and is supplemented through the General Fund. The Ambulance Utility Fee was chosen after four years of intensive study to find a sustainable model to fund public safety. The revenues generated must be used for EMS purposes under state law and has proven successful in other communities around Washington State to support and grow public safety.

When will the community see benefits? 

Recruitment and hiring of two new police officers will begin immediately on passage by the City Council. In addition, Council has committed to hire three fire personnel and one additional police officer, a domestic violence coordinator, and a police services officer over the next three years.

How can I have input?

The City Council has scheduled a Public Hearing on the proposed Ambulance Utility Fee for Monday, July 2, 2018 in the Arlington City Council Chambers, 110 E. Third Street. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.

Written comments may be submitted in advance of the hearing to Kristin Banfield, Communications Manager / City Clerk. All comments received will be provided to the City Council for their consideration.

When setting the public hearing we did recognize that some people will be out of town for the 4th of July holiday. The City has its work to complete and cannot necessarily work around holidays and special occasions. Our historical experience of 4th of July celebrations in Arlington indicate that when the holiday falls in the middle of the week, more people stay in town. Still, we were concerned that some would feel they could not provide input due to the holiday, which is why we directly encouraged anyone with comments to provide those to the city in writing ahead of the hearing.

If you have questions, please contact City Administrator Paul Ellis or Communications Manager Kristin Banfield at 360-403-3441.