PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Clackamas County voters appear to have thrown their support behind a levy that would help fund additional firefighters and emergency response vehicles, according to preliminary results that have been tallied from Tuesday’s election.
As of the unofficial results Clackamas County released at 10:35 p.m. Tuesday, 57.6% of the votes that had been counted so far supported the levy’s passage. At the time these early results were released, election officials said they’d received ballots from nearly 25% of the county’s registered voters.
Levies for Canby Fire District and Molalla Fire District also appeared to be passing.
In a statement, the Professional Firefighters of Clackamas County, IAFF Local 1159, said these preliminary results show that public safety is still a priority.
“The Professional Firefighters of Clackamas County, Local 1159, would like to thank the citizens we serve for their support thus far on measure 3-594 with Clackamas Fire District as well as Measures 3-591 in Molalla and Measure 3-596 in Canby,” the union wrote in a statement.
These election results are expected to fluctuate in the coming days, or even weeks, as more ballots are counted. In 2022, Oregon started allowing voters to place their ballots in the mail on election day. Previously, voters had to postmark their ballots a certain number of days before the election so they could be counted on the election day.
With this new system, official results will trickle in later.
For now, in Clackamas County, Measure 3-594’s yes votes led by more than 5,000.
If passed, the levy would be the first in the fire district’s history. It would fund 62 additional firefighters, allow 24/7 staffing at two rural fire stations, and would purchase two quick response vehicles that will be staffed by paramedics and will respond to medical calls that don’t require a fire engine.
The cost to home and property owners would be $0.52 per $1,000 of assessed property value. According to the county, for a home with an assessed value of $266,018, the measure would cost the owner $138 per year.
Throughout the decades, Clackamas Fire District has relied on taxes and grants to fund its operations, but the district says those no longer cover the staffing the district needs.
In 2022, the district made its first staffing cuts since 2008.
“Just due to staffing shortfalls, inflation, COVID, you can name a dozen different things that caused our staffing shortfall. But in the end, our calls for emergencies are going up. It’s getting more costly to operate at the fire department level and provide that public safety that our community’s demanding,” said Nathan Hon, the secretary of the Local 1159 union.
Hon said increased medical calls and the risk of wildfires have strained resources over the years and spread staff thin.
National standards call four four fire crew members to staff a firefighting vehicle. In the Clackamas Fire District, only four of their 19 crew vehicles have four people. The rest are understaffed.
If passed, the levy would begin in July 2023, at the start of the fiscal year. In the first fiscal year, the county predicts it will collect more than $13.8 million and the revenue is expected to increase every year after that.