Friday, March 7, 2008

Should property taxes be raised to fund ambulance service?

Sarah Michael is a Blaine County Commissioner.


The Blaine County Board of Commissioners, acting in its capacity as the board of the county ambulance district, is seeking public input on a ballot measure that could be put before voters May 27. The measure would ask: Should property taxes be increased to support the county's ambulance services?

The board will hold a public hearing on March 11 at 11:30 a.m. at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey to discuss whether this issue should be put on the ballot.

In a March 4 workshop, Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman, Ketchum Ambulance and Fire Chief Mike Elle, Medical Director Keith Sivertson, Diane Barker of the Wood River Sawtooth Emergency Services Council, and County Administrator Mike McNees presented the commissioners with ambulance district budget projections for the coming fiscal year. The figures show that a tax levy increase, above what would normally be allowed by law, would be necessary next year to sustain the paramedic level of service currently provided to the citizens of our valley.

The ambulance district tax on a $400,000 home is now about $36.50. The proposal adds $3 per $100,000 of assessed value, for a total of $48.50 on that same house after the increase.

The county contracts with the Ketchum Fire Department in the north valley and Wood River Fire & Rescue in the south valley to provide ambulance services. The partnerships with these fire departments enable the county to provide paramedics in our ambulances 24 hours a day, seven days a week, based both in Ketchum and Hailey. The ambulance district board also contracts for essential services with the Quick Response Unit in Carey. According to our EMS professionals, paramedic-level service is particularly critical to Carey citizens and anyone living in areas of the county far from definitive medical care.

A tax levy override requires a two-thirds vote of approval of the people. The County Commissioners invite your input on Tuesday on whether such a ballot measure should be presented to you, the voters, as part of the Tuesday, May 27, Republican primary election.

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