Budgets for fire and emergency services are set by state and local lawmakers and officials. So, when we see the lack of funding for these services, we look to these government representatives to address the issue. But budgets only go so far and sadly fire budgets often come up short.
This is where voters come in. Using ballot measures, our communities have the opportunity to provide additional funding needed for fire departments to address their staffing, equipment and other funding needs.
What is a Ballot Measure?
So, what is a ballot measure? A ballot measure is “a law, issue, or question that appears on a statewide or local ballot for voters of that jurisdiction to decide.” Ballot measures are most often found during primary or general elections, but sometimes special elections can be called to vote on a single issue.
The concept of a ballot measure is simple, but spreading awareness and getting support from voters can be complicated. Often, city councils or district officials will need to vote on approving a ballot measure before residents are able to vote on the proposal. Getting to that stage requires strategic planning and effective communication from local fire agencies hoping to make their case to the public.
Benefit of Passing Ballot Measures for Fire Departments
We have found that once ballot measures are approved for a vote, the public generally responds with support at the ballot box. As we noted in our 2020 Referendum Report, around 72% of random ballot measures we examined passed that year. As a result, millions of dollars were procured for local fire services!
“In total, there was over $255,297,660 on the line across all the ballot measures presented in 2020. Voters approved funding roughly $224,235,387 of the requested money, which amounted to an approval of 87% of the funds requested,” we reported.
The three major expenses that ballot measures usually ask voters to fund are:
Residents are asked to pay for these necessities through levies on property taxes or the purchasing of municipal bonds, with the most successful ballot measures keeping the increased taxation or public debt modest.
Ultimately, ballot measures are an easy way for residents to support the fire and other emergency operations which keep their communities safe. The most effective ballot measures communicate the needs of the department (and the community) clearly and the most direct way for voters to be sure their fire services are getting the resources needed to support these measures when they come around at the ballot box!
At Firefighters & EMS Fund, we help local fire services get support for their ballot measures and the funding needed to effectively serve their communities.