Paramedics in Fremont County asking voters to support 2-year $250,000 levy
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ST. ANTHONY – Fremont County EMS is hoping three times is the charm for an ambulance levy.
A levy to help replace outdated equipment, ambulances and support vehicles will be on the ballot for a third time in an election later this month. EMS Director Bert Mecham tells EastIdahoNews.com the two-year $250,000 per year levy ($500,000 total) is needed so the department can continue to serve the community effectively.
“We have six ambulances in the county. We were able to update one, but we’re looking to update two more,” Mecham says. “Our paramedic response vehicle is getting quite a few miles on it so we need to replace it. We’ve got a couple of old snowmachines and one other response vehicle that needs to be replaced.”
The levy amount would also replace $250,000 in payments in lieu of taxes. The EMS building sits on nontaxable government land and PILT are federal payments to the county to help offset losses in property taxes.
Mecham says PILT funds are not a guaranteed source of income and the levy would allow them to replace what they’re borrowing from the county.
If the levy is passed during the May 18 election, it would result in an annual property tax increase of $12.84 per $100,000 of assessed value.
The new levy has been adjusted since it first appeared on the ballot two years ago. The ambulance district tried to pass a similar levy for $340,000 per year in the May 2019 election. It narrowly failed. Mecham and his team tried again six months later with a $410,000 per year permanent levy, which failed with only 53% of the vote. The measure requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass.
The total amount of $500,000 and the two-year timeframe is in response to numerous concerns from voters.
“There were a lot of suggestions made in the last levy saying we should be collecting from people who are using ambulance services more (than others). We’ve done some of that,” Mecham explains. “We’re teaching more classes (to our staff) and doing a few other more efficient things on how supplies are ordered. We’ve taken the advice of the people from the last levy and applied it, but we’re still short of being able to be self-sufficient.”
Mecham says being able to respond to emergencies 24/7, 365 days a year requires a well-trained staff and high-quality equipment. These things take money and that’s why he says it’s critical for voters to approve this levy.
“We just want to be able to provide the best service we can for our community so that they have the best experience when they call in their moment of need,” he says. “If (the levy) doesn’t go through, hopefully we can still get PILT funds. If not, that could mean a major change. The only thing I have left to cut back on is personnel.”
Voters will decide its fate in two weeks. A look at how it will appear on the ballot is included below.