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County “clerical error” delays EMS funding for Benton County Fire District 4

Community loses $500,000 in budgeted emergency medical service improvements.

WEST RICHLAND, WASH. – Voters in Benton County Fire District 4 approved a levy lid lift for Emergency Medical Service (EMS) in 2022 to hire three firefighter paramedics replace apparatus and renovate facilities. The property tax increase was scheduled to take effect in 2023 to complete these projects. Due to a “clerical error,” the Benton County Assessor’s office did not increase property taxes and Benton 4 is facing almost a $500,000 shortfall as a result.

“We promised our community that these projects would be completed if the lid lift was approved,” said Fire Chief Paul Carlyle. “The County Assessor ‘forgot’ to increase the EMS levy to the amount voters approved in the 2022 election. Now, we’re scrambling.”

The Chief acknowledges that some property owners may rejoice in this error. However, they won’t feel that way when property taxes increase for EMS in 2024. And, that increase may not make up for the almost $500,000 the fire district lost in the first year.

Benton 4 passed its 2023 budget last November to meet the state mandated deadline. Based on the lid lift, Benton 4 signed contracts for three emergency personnel to put another medical unit in service and to renovate Station 420. Now, the agency is having to rewrite the budget to account for the $500,000 loss.

EMS accounts for 65% of all emergency calls for Benton 4 so any loss of revenue is a concern.

Due to the error, Benton 4 is unable to hire one position and must delay replacing some emergency apparatus. The agency was in the process of replacing a fire engine; however, if bids come in higher than expected, this, too, will have to be delayed.

“We are transparent and accountable to our taxpayers and they need to know what is going on here. It’s unacceptable,” said Chief Carlyle.