Firefighters in Graham campaigning door-to-door to prevent layoffs and slower response times

GRAHAM, Wash.  - It’s not every day firefighters show up at your front step when you don’t have an emergency. But on Thursday, Graham firefighters went door to door personally asking for help.

“Without these folks, there wouldn’t be us,” firefighter John Corak said.

On February 13, voters will determine whether a $4 million levy will get renewed.

The fire district says if Prop 1 in Graham does not get approved it could mean layoffs and a rotation of fire stations closing down daily operations.

Firefighters say that means in emergencies people will have to wait up to 15 minutes longer on average for help.

“A fire doubles in size in one minute so 15 minutes dramatically changes the impact,” VP of Pierce County Professional Firefighters Lukas Wahl said.

“I see they need the money,” Graham resident Pamela Mielcarek-Kidder said.

But Pamela is still on the fence wondering if she can afford it.

The levy to help fire stations would cost a homeowner with a $300,000 home about $180 more per year.

That amount isn’t too much for Pamela, the problem for her is that there are other competing levies seeking money for schools. Not to mention higher car tabs because of ST3.

Also, come this Spring, many homeowners in Puget Sound will have to pay hundreds more in property taxes just to pay for an education deal passed by the legislature in 2017. The deal is an effort to comply with the McCleary decision, a court ruling that said the state was failing to fully fund public education.

“If they were by themselves, I think they would have an easier time but everyone and ST3 is in the news,” Mielcarek-Kidder said.

Firefighters say they understand the burden but Prop 1 is the only source to keep operations moving.

“There is probably a point that the burden is too heavy the only message I can give those people is this, it’s really important to our community,” Wahl said.

The fire department is worried that other taxes and fees like car tabs could impact how people will vote on their levy.

Just this week, the House passed a bill that would lower those car tab fees. It's now on its way to the Senate.

The bill would make it so your fees are based on car values that are lower than the manufacturer's suggested retail price.

Using the MSRP caused car tab costs to skyrocket in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties last year after voters approved ST3 to expand light rail. Critics say it’s unfair to calculate car tabs using MSRP because it’s not a fair market price.

Sponsors say if this bill becomes law you could see lower car tab fees within just a few months.

But some lawmakers say the change in the bill is still not aggressive enough and many drivers will only see minor decreases in their car tab fees.

The ballots containing the levy to help Graham fire stations will be mailed to voters on Friday.