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On The Ballot: A dedicated 1% sales tax to fund countywide EMS (ambulance service)

Doniphan County EMS/Ambulance Services – ON THE BALLOT August 2022

The Scenario

A dedicated 1% sales tax to fund countywide EMS (ambulance service) pursuant to KSA 12-187(b)(5) will be on the August 2, 2022 primary election ballot.

The 1% dedicated sales tax is different than the current 1% county sales tax in that 100% of the dedicated sales tax collections will be used solely for funding countywide ambulance service. Versus the current 1% sales tax which is divided between Doniphan County and its cities (Denton, Elwood, Highland, Leona, Severance, Troy, Wathena, White Cloud) proportionate to assessed valuation.

In January, the Doniphan County Commissioners mailed a survey to residential property asking their opinion on implementation of a countywide ambulance service and levying a tax to fund the same. The responses were overwhelming in favor of forming a countywide ambulance service. Of those responses received, property owners said they were in favor of a countywide ambulance service, but wanted the County Commissioners to find another way to fund it other than putting all the burden on property owners in the form of property tax. Therefore, the County Commissioners decided a 1% dedicated sales tax for EMS services would be the fairest tax that would cover not only county residents in need of the service, but those visiting and traveling through Doniphan County.

“A 1% dedicated sales tax captures funding from all users (anyone in the county who would use the service, including travelers and visitors), versus an increased mill levy which financially affects property owners only.” – Mike Brissett, EMS Committee Chair

Doniphan County is currently served by two ambulance districts: Doniphan County Ambulance District No. 1 formed by the Board of County Commissioners whose boundaries encompass Fire Districts 1 and 5 or the cities of Wathena and Troy and outlying areas north, south, east and west of the incorporated cities. Fire District No. 2 operates the second ambulance service providing service on the west end of Doniphan County, made up of White Cloud, Highland, Denton, Severance, Leona, the unincorporated area of Bendena and the outlying areas to the north, south, east and west of the incorporated cities.

Doniphan County Ambulance District No. 1 currently levies 2.202 mills for funding, paid to the City of Troy who currently administers the ambulance service. Fire District No. 2 levies 6.818 mills to fund both ambulance and fire services. Fire District No. 3 (Bendena/Denton) pays Fire District No. 2 $80,300.00 annually to contract for ambulance service.

“The current mill levy income will not sustain an Ambulance for Fire District #2 after 2022.” – Ken Stewart, Ambulance Service Director – Highland

The objective of the Board of County Commissioners is to continue to levy 2.202 mills countywide to fund a portion of the ambulance service, with the remaining amount to be paid with a 1% dedicated sale tax funding. Fire District No. 2 and Fire District No. 3 will roll back tax collections to offset the amount currently used to fund ambulance service on the west end of the county. The result, some residents will see a decrease in their property tax, some will remain neutral and others (who are not currently paying) will see an increase in property tax. Elwood is currently the only area not paying for ambulance service, as a majority of their service is provided by Buchanan County, Missouri. Depending on sales tax collections, the County Commissioners will in the future be able to roll back the mill levy rate or abolish all together depending on collections, billings and operational expenses.

The Doniphan County EMS Committee proposes that the Doniphan County Commissioners contract with Techs Inc. for an estimated cost of $1.1 million annually to operate an Advance Life Support (ALS) countywide service. They also endorse passing of the 1% dedicated sales tax vote.

Should the 1% dedicated sales tax vote fail, the Doniphan County EMS Committee estimates the cost for Doniphan County to operate the countywide service to be approximately $2 million annually, through the raising of property taxes, but that system would still continue to have the current staffing challenges. The EMS Committee hopes it doesn’t come to this situation.

“The reality is, if the 1% dedicated sales tax does not pass, we risk not having an Ambulance service in Doniphan County at all.” – Mike Brissett, EMS Committee Chair

On the Ballot

On the ballot, the question is listed as follows:
A vote “yes” is in favor of implementing a 1% dedicated sales tax to fund countywide EMS. A vote “No” is a vote against a 1% dedicated sales tax to fund countywide EMS.

“Shall a countywide retailers’ sales tax in the amount of one percent (1%) be imposed in Doniphan County, Kansas, with the revenue produced therefrom to be utilized to fund operations of countywide emergency medical services (EMS) pursuant to KSA 12-187(b)(5)?

IF the ballot question fails…

The current mill levy for Doniphan County EMS district is 2.202 mills. If the county does not vote to pass the 1% dedicated sales tax, the funding will have to come entirely from the mill levy which will need to be increased dramatically, perhaps even quadruple. In this scenario, all property taxpayers will see an increase and will have to bear 100% of the burden.

Why the current systems do not work and why a countywide service formation is needed through funding from a 1% dedicated sales tax.

  • Fire District 2 currently is contracting a “Basic Life Support” (BLS) with American Medical Response (AMR). The estimated cost for AMR’s service and operating costs in addition to this contract is $375,000 annually. These costs do not include equipment replacement, which currently are unfunded.
  • Ambulance District 1 is currently operating an “Advanced Life Support” (ALS) with a budget of $325,000 annually, this cost will continue to increase using paramedics.
    • Buchanan County EMS currently operates an ALS ambulance system.
  • The current budget between the two services totals $700,000, but is well below what will be needed to provide an ALS countywide. The current budgets do not include additional funding needed for staff and equipment replacement costs.
  • Both services are currently experiencing increased costs and staffing challenges that will only continue unless funding structure is changed.
    • Staffing and retention have been an ongoing challenge for both services. Staffing is currently a combination of full-time, part-time, and volunteers. Diminishing employee pool and recruiting new employees is extremely difficult under the current operational setup. Current EMS employees have expressed interest in staying on if contracted through Techs Inc.
  • The tax mill levy for both services will need to increase separately to maintain the current model if 1% dedicated sales tax fails and County Commissioners are strongly opposed to raising the mil levy as a means of funding.
  • Based on the EMS Committee presentation to the Doniphan County Commissioners on 7/11/22, the commissioners are interested in the option to contract with Techs Inc. should the 1% dedicated sales tax to fund a countywide EMS pass.
    • Techs Inc. currently serves Jackson County, Seneca and Nemaha County and Osage County in the northeast region of Kansas.


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