The city of Cascade Locks has decided it will make another attempt at passing an Emergency Medical Services support fee during the November general election after the original measure failed during the May primary due to a lackluster voter turnout.
Earlier this spring, the city proposed charging a fee to all city of Cascade Locks electric utility customers in the EMS department’s “designated or contracted ambulance service area,” which runs from the east end of the parking lot at Multnomah Falls (exit 31 on Interstate 84) to the east end of Viento State Park (milepost 56).
The proposal is designed to raise money for the Cascade Locks EMS department, which has faced rising costs and declining revenues, according to the city. The measure would tack on monthly fees ranging from $6 to $9 to customers’ electric bills.
During the May primary when the EMS support fee first went on the ballot, the measure enjoyed a sizable majority, winning approval from 64 percent of Cascade Locks voters. However, voter turnout was less than 40 percent and a clause in the city charter prevents measures in non-general elections from passing if the voter turnout is less than 50 percent.
The Cascade Locks City Council came to a consensus during a recent meeting that the city should try again and put the measure on the general election ballot in November when voter turnout thresholds aren’t required by the city charter. Cascade Locks City Administrator Gordon Zimmerman said in an email that this iteration of the measure would essentially be “the same basic measure that received such support in May with a minor tweak or two from the city attorney.”
In the meantime, however, Zimmerman said the city’s budget committee had to “rework” the budget for the upcoming fiscal year to account for the loss in revenue from EMS support fee, which would have gone into effect July 1 had it passed. Zimmerman said revenue projections were dropped from $60,000 to $35,000, assuming that the measure is approved in November and that charges start going into effect Nov. 30. He added that the estimate for beginning fund balance was “conservatively” raised from $45,000 to $55,000 to help offset the decline in revenues. The total EMS department budget, including debt service, is $390,740 for Fiscal Year 2014-15.
Zimmerman also mentioned the city is reducing costs by staffing its Emergency Medical Technician position with a temporary hire.
“By paying the temporary just a per hour cost — $22 per hour — and not paying benefits, we have reduced the [Public Employees Retirement System] costs and health insurance costs by $15,000 for the first five months of the year, thereby balancing the costs,” he said.