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Ambulance tax vote could be delayed

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By Bryan Marshall

Questions and concerns still surround a proposed new taxing district that would help create funding for more ambulance service throughout the county.

The Grant County Fiscal Court is scheduled to vote on a second and final reading of the ordinance at 7 p.m. Dec. 5, however it is unclear if the vote will take place as planned or be tabled while more information is gathered.

“Based on the knowledge I have right now, I’d have some reservations voting on it,” said Magistrate Dick Austin. “That’s why we may not have it on the agenda Monday. I don’t think we’re all comfortable. I don’t know that the three of us are ready to make that decision now.”

Magistrate Brian Linder said that there has been some concern about whether the tax would be enough to pay for adequate ambulance service throughout the county.

“The number one concern that I keep hearing is the fear that this is a tax that will be continued to be raised every single year and that there will be no oversight,” he said. “People do not want that.”

Magistrate Bobby Young said he still needed to do more research before settling on a vote.

“I think we need to realize what we’re going to get once the revenue starts being generated and make sure we get adequate coverage throughout the entire county not just specific areas,” he said. “If someone needs something, we need to make sure someone’s there. I think it’s definitely needed for Grant County. I think it’s something we need to look into very seriously. We need to make the right decision whatever we do.”

The first reading of the ordinance was approved during the Nov. 7 regular meeting.

If passed, each magistrate would choose a member within their district to be part of a newly created ambulance taxing district board.

The board would have the responsibility to set the rate for the taxing district, but the ordinance states that the initial rate would be set at 1.5 cents per $1,000 assessed property or about $15 for a home valued at $100,000.

An ambulance service tax would not go into effect until next year’s tax bills, which are collected beginning in October.

Linder said he has been studying the budget from the Verona Fire District, which includes ambulance service, and the Pendelton County ambulance taxing district to gain more knowledge about the issue.

He had planned to also meet with the Dry Ridge Fire Department to discuss how the tax would impact them.

Currently, ambulance service is provided through the Dry Ridge Fire Department, which has three ambulances, and Rural Metro with one ambulance.

Although the majority of the ambulance runs made by DRFD are outside city limits, Dry Ridge taxpayers are the only ones paying for the service.

If a taxing district is formed, the ambulance provider for the county would be put out for bid.

“If the city of Dry Ridge’s ambulance service did not get the bid for the contract for the county and the city of Dry Ridge decides to continue their ambulance service, I need assurance in writing that the city taxpayer’s of Dry Ridge would either be excluded from the (county tax) or any taxes collected from city residents would go back to the city to pay for their ambulance service,” said Linder.

If Linder can not get that assurance before a second reading, he said he would likely vote against the ordinance.

While he isn’t sure that the money generated from the tax would be enough to fund a county, Austin said it could be a good start.

However, he still has some unanswered questions.

“What are we going to get for $250,000?,” Austin said. “Are we going to get one ambulance or are we going to get two? Where are they going to be? Am I going to have an ambulance in Corinth or are they all going to be stationed in Williamstown and Dry Ridge?”

All three magistrates agree that most citizens see the need for an improvement in ambulance service within the county.

The only concern is the best and most economical way to fund the ambulance service.

“I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” Young said. “Of course, when you say tax, people realize there is a lot to go into that. But, all in all, I think people believe that Grant County needs to get up with surrounding counties and supply this.”

Linder said he believes that the Pendelton County tax rate for ambulance service is about 10 cents (per $100,000 assessed property value) compared to Grant’s proposed 1.5 cents.

If an ambulance tax needed to be raised that much to be successful, public opinion likely would drop dramatically, said Linder.

“If a poll was to be taken, it’s my opinion that we would get a high percentage of people who would be willing to pay (1.5 cents per $100,000 assessed property value) for an ambulance service in Grant County,” he said. “The higher you raise that tax, the percentage of people OK with that tax starts coming down. If you raised it to 10 cents, I think it would go from 80 to 90 percent approval rating to a 30 to 40 percent approval rating.”