The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
It’s only a month until we vote on the first big tax increase of the year. The proposed county ambulance district would authorize a 30 cent (per $100 value) tax on real and personal property, raising about $1.1 million. This is about twice the subsidies now provided by Warrensburg and Holden for their ambulance services; however, they claim that service levels are not adequate. Subsidies are needed because higher levels of government have imposed rules that make it impossible to make an honest profit running an ambulance service.
If the issue passes, the county commission will set up ambulance board subdistricts and we’ll vote to fill those positions in June. The new board will set the levy and decide who performs the service. They may contract with the Warrensburg & Holden services, hire a private contractor, select some other governmental entity such as the Western Missouri Medical Center (our local hospital) or decide to run it themselves. Most people expect them to contract with the cities and the service will continue as it has.
If the issue fails, Warrensburg and Holden have threatened to discontinue service outside their city limits. We will be told that there will be no trained & professional local response if, for example, a semi were to hit a school bus out at US-50 and MO-58. That may be true, but it’s difficult to discern what state law requires in such an emergency. It does appear that routine transport could be curtailed and much greater use of air ambulances would occur. I have no idea who would pay for the air ambulance if the patient were indigent nor what the liability issues would be if a deputy transported an accident victim. Options for rural service would still exist. Warrensburg could vote on a general revenue sales tax to make up their deficit, but Holden doesn’t have the retail tax base. Perhaps the western part of the county could create its own ambulance district.
Supporters of the ambulance district must do several things before April 2nd if they want a chance at my vote. First, the county commission must announce how they will set up the ambulance board subdistricts. Then, individuals who plan to run for the ambulance board from those subdistricts need to come forward and describe their vision of the operation. Finally, some “guide specifications” need to be provided so we can see what level of service we’re voting on. People of this county have a record of rejecting “pig in a poke” proposals, so ambulance district supporters must be very open and specific.
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