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Phoenix voters will decide merits of emergency services funding

PHOENIX ' A five-year public safety tax on the May 20 ballot would add police officers and firefighters, fill budget shortfalls and update safety equipment, city officials say.

If Measure 15-45 fails, it would mean loss of 24-hour police and fire coverage for Phoenix residents, said Councilman Harold Burks.

People hate to be taxed. I hate to be taxed. But this is necessary, he said.

Because it falls in a non-general election, the measure is subject to Oregon's so-called double majority requirement in which at least 50 percent of the registered voters must cast their ballots and the majority of them must be yes votes.

— Burks said the new levy would add 55 cents per &

36;1,000 of assessed valuation to the current public safety levy of &

36;2.30.

On a &

36;150,000 home, for example, the increase would add &

36;82.50 for a total of &

36;427.50 a year.

If the measure fails, the city would lay off two of four firefighters and two of six police officers. Without these positions, neither department would be able to provide 24-hour coverage, city officials said.

Over the five years, two new police officers and two new firefighters would be added to safety services, said City Administrator Don Walker.

Additionally, the levy would help fund the replacement of a 1975 fire truck, replace police vehicles and pay equipment costs for added personnel.

The fire department currently consists of a paid chief, four paid firefighters and about 20 volunteers.

The police department consists of one paid chief, six paid officers, a part-time lieutenant and about 17 reserve officers.

Walker said both departments have been working to update their medical service capability with increased training and new equipment such as heart defibrillators.

Burks said he understands the current economic trials of his town and its residents, but he believes Measure 15-45 is vital for public safety services.

We literally have no money, said Burks. I'm a retired masonry contractor. I'll be significantly impacted by this measure, but I'm going to vote for it.