Public safety excess levies play an important role in West Virginia communities’ fire protection, emergency medical services (EMS), law enforcement, and 911 services. Achieving the support of voters can be a challenging task, but it’s far from impossible. According to my analysis of state auditor data, over $7 million worth of excess levy funds are used for local public safety in West Virginia
Define Clear Goals
After some deliberation and planning with stakeholders, you must define clear goals for the excess levy. I say this not from a compliance or legal standpoint, but from a managerial and political perspective. If you’re unsure of the goals or purpose of the excess levy, building a coalition of supporters and navigating the messaging will be challenging.
Questions you should consider: What is the exact purpose of this money? Why should the community vote for it? Have we explored other alternatives? Are the financial needs accurate and well-defined?
Build a Coalition
As with any political effort or campaign, building a broad coalition of supporters is crucial. If you’re running a fire or EMS levy, ensuring that your various department leaders and members are on board is an important early step. They will be among your most passionate and vocal supporters!
Consider reaching out to civic groups, other local government leaders, and chambers of commerce. These individuals are actively involved in the community, and they vote! Their friends and colleagues do as well.
Messaging is Critical
Your messaging to the public should be clear, consistent, and concise. While much of your work will likely involve a broad group of stakeholders, it’s essential that the messaging remains consistent and addresses the core goals of excess levies. Consider using a platform like Canva to create social media graphics, logos, letters, and pamphlets. It will enable you to create professional-looking materials for your messages and advocacy.
Engage the Public
Work to engage the public in a variety of ways. If you’re not promoting an excess levy on Facebook, you’re missing out. In the United States alone, an estimated 70% of people use the social media platform. Consider well-developed and planned presentations to civic organizations, church groups, local government leaders, and similar stakeholders. Monongalia EMS has created an excellent levy resource page on its website. It’s an excellent model to follow for both offline and online communication.
Don’t Stop After the Election
If your community approves the public safety excess levy, your work doesn’t end on election day. But here’s something that will make your life much easier: don’t stop advocating. Sure, the yard signs and newspaper ads will cease after election day.
However, you should transition to showcase mode: How is this levy impacting the community? What does it mean for day-to-day life? Did the money help support a critical emergency call? These are all important things to consider before you’re back in ‘deep’ campaign mode when the levy comes up for renewal.