Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Adopts 2024 Budget

“We operate under a balanced budget to fund emergency services,” fire chief says

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue adopted its 2024 budget. The fire district operates under a balanced budget and its funding decisions are guided by a strategic plan, which identifies the operational and capital needs to provide fire and EMS to the community.

The strategic plan is approved by the Board of Fire Commissioners who are locally elected to represent the community’s priorities. All board meetings are open to the public and meeting information can be found on the fire district’s website.

“Transparency and accountability are key to maintaining public trust,” Fire Chief Jason Christian said. “We report to you and believe it is critical for our community to understand how we are funded. This is a partnership to save lives and property and we are grateful for the community’s support.”

How we fund emergency services
Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue (CKFR) funds its daily operations through a fire levy capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In 2019, voters approved a fire levy rate of $1.50. Since then, the levy rate has dropped to $1.34.

“There is a common misconception that revenue for the fire district increases annually by the same amount as assessed property values,” Chief Christian said. “That is not the case.”
State law limits fire districts to a set amount of revenue per year plus a small increase approved by voters. Even if property values double, the fire district can only collect approximately the same amount from the previous year plus that small increase approved by voters.

This is called “levy compression” and impacts the fire district’s ability to provide emergency services.

“Revenue from our current fire levy of $1.34 is not keeping up with higher call volumes and costs to provide service,” Chief Christian said. “We need additional personnel to respond to calls.”

Calls have increased by 39 percent in the last six years. In 2023, the fire district responded to over 11,300 calls – and the majority of those calls, 68 percent, were for medical emergencies.

CKFR is considering asking voters to return the fire levy rate to $1.50 in the August primary election.

The $0.16 lid lift would fund additional emergency personnel to respond to higher call volumes and maintain the level and quality of emergency response the community requires. The fire district also needs to replace apparatus to ensure service reliability when responding to calls.

Stretching tax dollars further
The fire district applies for grants and works with neighboring agencies to share costs. The fire district prefers a “pay as you go” method for capital items – such as apparatus – through the regular fire levy instead of borrowing money, which costs taxpayers more in interest payments.

Additionally, the fire levy funds the CARES program to reduce non-emergency calls to 911 and improve service for residents. CARES is a program that helps assist community members with issues before they become more expensive emergencies.

In addition to operating under a balanced budget, the fire district maintains adequate emergency reserves and has passed all its independent financial and accountability audits. These strong financial practices earned CKFR an AA+ credit rating, which is one of the highest possible ratings.