The City of Port Washington has identified a need to add additional, full-time personnel to its Fire Department.
Voters will be asked on April 2, 2024 whether or not they support a $1,175,000 annual increase in the property tax levy to cover the cost of hiring six additional full-time fire/EMS positions and retaining the three positions temporarily funded through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants.
Our current fire/EMS funding level and staffing levels are insufficient to meet the growing current and projected future needs of our community. While our department has risen to meet the needs of our community by working smarter and creating efficiencies, the City has been receiving an increasing amount of calls for emergency service over time. Coupled with an aging population, limited staff to respond to calls and interim funding aid set to expire soon, the City needs additional ongoing funding to provide an adequate level of emergency services to its residents.
CRITICAL NEED FOR FULL-TIME STAFF
The Port Washington Fire Department is staffed by just five full-time staff members who are supported by paid-on-call and paid-on-premise staff. This current staffing structure does not adequately support emergency service operations, even with paid-on-call or paid-on-premise staff filling in any gaps. Full-time staff must wait to respond to an emergency for paid-on-call support to arrive, which increases the time it takes to provide necessary support.
In 2022, calls for emergency services were requested 1,826 times – a 53% increase since 2012 – while staffing declined by 23%. From 2012 to 2022, the number of Fire/Dive team, EMS team and cross-trained staff members, those who most often work in a paid-on-call or paid-on-premise capacity, decreased by 25%.
Compared to surrounding departments, the City receives the highest number of EMS calls per full-time employee, despite having the fewest full-time staff. There are 297 EMS calls per full-time employee in Port Washington, more than doubling the average amount of 142 calls per full-time employee.
An approved referendum would enable the Fire Department to hire six additional full-time fire/EMS personnel, in addition to retaining the additional three positions temporarily funded through ARPA grants. This will eliminate the need for full-time staff to wait for paid-on-call staff to respond to an emergency, improving response times, and ensuring enough staff can cover day-to-day calls so off-duty staff can participate in ongoing training to continue to provide high-quality patient care.
GROWING AND AGING POPULATION
The City of Port Washington has seen steady population growth over the past four decades, increasing more than 4,200 from 1980 to 2022. Additionally, changing demographics are driving an increased need for services. From 2010–2020, the 60–74 age group, which represents more than 60% of our EMS service calls, increased by 85% — a trend that is projected to continue.
If the referendum is approved by a majority of voters, Taxpayers will see an estimated property tax increase of $91 annually, or $1.75 a week, per $100,000 of assessed value, starting with bills issued in December 2024. For a home with a median value of $235,000 that equals $213.85 annually and $4.11 per week. This increase would fund six additional full-time fire/EMS positions, and retain the three positions temporarily funded through ARPA grants, which will help ensure that Port Washington residents receive the fire/EMS service response they need.
Resources that provide additional details about the referendum are linked below:
ELECTION DAY: TUESDAY, APRIL 2
Port Washington voters can cast their vote in one of three ways: through absentee mail-in ballots, early in-person voting at City Hall, or in-person voting on Election Day, April 2, 2024.
You may request an absentee ballot be mailed to you until 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, 2024.
In-person early voting will take place at City Hall from
March 19 - 22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
March 25 - 28 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
March 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On April 2, all polling places will open at 7:00 a.m. and will close at 8:00 p.m. Wisconsin voters are required to show an acceptable photo ID in order to vote.
Additional voting information, including about polling places and requesting an absentee ballot, can be found on myvote.wi.gov.