Whatcom County EMS levy approved by a slim margin

By Stefanie Donahue

The last votes have been counted and supporters of the county EMS levy can finally breathe easy.

The fate of the levy had been up in the air from election night until the final count on November 28, as the count was too close to call. The levy passed by just 40 votes out of a total 107,019 cast or 60.038 percent, just squeaking past the required 60 percent super-majority. “Yes” votes totaled 64,252 compared to 42,767 “No” votes.

The levy will impose a 29.5 cent property tax per $1,000 of assessed home value for the span of six years – that’s $88.50 per year on a home valued at $300,000. Revenue generated through the tax will partially fund emergency medical services in the county.

The levy proved controversial from the start with those in favor contending it addressed the needs of a growing population and strained response units while opponents said proponents had failed to properly research and justify the need for additional funding.

The final count had to await the return of ballots that had mismatched or missing signatures and had been challenged by the county elections office. Approximately 900 ballots had been returned to voters who had until November 28 to return the ballots along with the missing information.

Unlike candidate races, close initiative races don’t automatically spark a recount. A recount must be requested by five registered voters who must make a $0.25 per vote deposit which, in this case, would total nearly $27,000 to pay for the cost of a recount. Deposits are forfeited if the outcome remains unchanged.

On November 29, Whatcom County Auditor Debbie Adelstein confirmed that no recount request had been made.

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