Commissioners Approve Resolution to Place Ambulance Funding on Ballot



Prowers County voters will decide to approve or deny a quarter per cent county sales tax increase to fund future emergency ambulance services. The Prowers County Commissioners approved the resolution placing the question on the ballot for this November’s general election during their May 16th meeting.  The sales tax comes to twenty-five cents for every $100 spent on goods or services in Prowers County.  The tax is expected to generate $400,000 which will be spent on emergency ambulance services.  At present, the county and the City of Lamar contributes approximately $68,500 from their general funds each year to cover the costs of running the ambulance service.  The balance of operating costs comes from payments through various personal insurance policies, Medicaid or Medicare.  It has never been sufficient to cover all costs, according to the city and the county.  Medicaid usually pays thirty cents for every dollar billed.  Lamar Emergency Medical Services says they also have to contend with non-payment scenarios or customers who cannot pay for the full amount of care they receive when they call for an ambulance.

During their respective budget sessions, the city and county have attempted to find a solution each year to the shortfall caused by the need to provide ambulance service throughout the county. In past years, the creation of a special ambulance district or a sales tax has been discussed, but officials have decided the quarter per cent sales tax is now the best option to follow to ensure residents have an ambulance service they can rely on.

Ron Cook, County Commissioner Chairman, explained that if the resolution passes, a three person board will be established to oversee the funds. “The City of Lamar will have a representative from the council, the county will have one and one person from the Holly Ambulance District will be selected,” he said.  Cook stated that the city will receive 60% of the balance of the sales tax funds while the Holly Ambulance District receives 20% for the management of ambulance services only and the board will receive 20% which will be held back and used for equipment costs and future matching grants for additional purchases for ambulance related items.  He felt that both Holly and Lamar would be able to cover some of those costs from their share of the tax revenue, but the board’s 20% would be used as contingency funding.

The City of Lamar issued a letter of support for the county’s resolution during their May 14th meeting.  Two years ago, the council reviewed and increased a series of basic charges for ambulance services to help cover costs.  The recent support letter stated that the only lasting solution would be the quarter percent increase in county sales taxes.  It also stated the increase would allow monies taken from their General Fund’s to be used in other areas to benefit the community.

Cook said a general press release explaining the resolution and the ballot language would be issued in about two weeks.

By Russ Baldwin

(Editor’s Note:)  The article was corrected to state that the tax revenues will be applied only to ambulance related equipment and not for fire equipment purchases.

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