Ambulance district tax passes, 66-34

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

2,058 cast ballots, with 1,354 voting in favor

A half-percent tax proposal from the South Barry County Ambulance District was approved at the polls on Tuesday by a margin of 66-34.

According to unofficial results from the Barry County Clerk's office, there were 13 precincts reporting with 2,058 total votes, including 1,354 votes in favor of the measure and 704 against it.

Ken Cieslinski, district board chairman, said he wanted to thank voters for taking the time to come to the polls and vote on the issue.

"It is truly a blessing to live in such wonderful country that uses a great system for the voice of the people to be heard," he said. "They have spoken, and we as a board for South Barry County Ambulance District will continue to do our best to serve the people."

According to 2013 tax revenues from the ambulance district, the proposal will generate about $570,000. Using 2014 figures listed at dor.mo.gov/publicreports, municipalities and un-incorporated areas in the district reported $122,989,620 in total taxable sales. If a half-percent tax was applied to that amount, it would generate about $614,948.

Municipalities and un-incorporated areas included in the figures are, in no particular order: Cassville, Jenkins, Wheaton, Ridgley, Butterfield, Exeter, Washburn, Seligman, Eagle Rock, Golden and Shell Knob.

Cieslinski said the board's 2013 numbers are accurate, but not current, and if the tax revenues become too great, the tax rate would likely be reduced.

"If it passes, the first year will be a half-cent," he said before the election. "But, if there are more proceeds than what it takes to provide services, we would reduce the tax, and the ballot language is written to give us that option."

With the current property tax, the district ended 2014 with total revenues of $227,419, and expenses totaled $273,140, putting the district $45,721 in the red for the year, one of three in-the-red years of the last five years overall. With $222,597 carrying over from 2013, the district had $176,876 cash on hand as of Jan. 1. Funding for the ambulance district has been the same since it was formed in May 1974.

According to state statute, the sales tax must be collected for at least a year before the property tax is eliminated. In 2015, the district will continue operating solely on property taxes. In 2016, both the property tax and the sales tax would be collected.

By Sept. 1, 2016, the district would have two possibilities. The first possibility is it may eliminate the property tax completely, but only if it has collected the sales tax for a calendar year, per state mandate. The second possibility is, if the sales tax has not been collected for a full year at that time, the district would roll back the property tax by at least 50 percent, Cieslinski said.

If the district must adhere to the second possibility, the property tax would drop to zero on Sept. 1, 2017, when the district would notify the Missouri Department of Revenue the property tax is repealed. The year-long process is mandated by state statute, as August is when the district must report its tax information.

The district owns one facility in Cassville and six ambulances. The ambulance district uses another facility, which is owned by the Central Crossing Fire District in Shell Knob.

The tax revenues will aim to fund equipment and vehicle upgrades for the district. Four of the six ambulances have more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, according to district documents. An ambulance refit costs more than $130,000. The district must refit, retire or buy an ambulance each year to keep up with the area's needs. The additional funding could pay for new ambulance equipment, such as cots and Lifepak units, which cost $7,500 and $35,000 each, respectively.

The district needs to replace four Lifepak units. They interpret heart rhythms, identify people who are having heart attacks, shock people during cardiac arrest and measure vital signs. The district also wants to get portable ventilators and an auto-pulse device that provides better blood flow during cardiac arrest.

The district's northern boundary is just south of Purdy, its western boundary stops at McDonald County, its southern boundary is the Missouri-Arkansas border, and its eastern boundary encompasses part of Shell Knob.

The South Barry County Ambulance District board of directors has six members. The board meets at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in the main district facility, located at 73 Smithson Drive in Cassville.

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