Ambulance district lowers tax rate

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cieslinski: Change made as act of good faith to voters

Nearly one year after voters approved a sales tax for the South Barry County Ambulance District, the district's board has lowered its property tax rate by more than 60 percent.

Ken Cieslinski, board chairman, said the property tax rate has been lowered from 0.0831 percent to 0.0331 percent, a 0.05 drop accounting for 60.17 percent of the total rate.

"The board reduced the property tax rate, even though it was not mandated to, as an act of good faith to the voters," he said.

On April 7, 2015, the district's voters approved a half-percent sales tax by a 66-34 margin, with the board hoping to eliminate the property tax all together in a year's time. However, per state statute, the sales tax must be collected for a full calendar year before the property tax may be eliminated, and the board had to have it's property tax rate submitted to the Missouri Department of Revenue by Sept. 1. A full calendar year for the sales tax would not have occurred by that deadline.

"Our projection is to eliminate the property tax next year," Cieslinski said. "We're just trying to do what's best for the people, as I and the rest of the board said we'd do in the first place."

From January through July, the sales tax has collected $466,591.76, and the property tax has collected $186,726.63, creating a total income for the year of $653,318.39.

In 2014, when the sales tax idea was being formulated, the district ended the year with total revenues of $227,419, and expenses at $273,140, putting the district $45,721 in the red that year. It was one of three years in the red over the previous five years. With $222,597 carrying over from 2013, the district had $176,876 cash on hand as of Jan. 1, 2014. Funding for the ambulance district has been the same since it was formed in May 1974.

Proceeds from the sales tax, along with the end of a $95,400 per year stipend to Cox when the district switched services to Mercy, have allowed the district to upgrade its vehicles and equipment.

This year alone, the district has purchased two Demers ambulances, costing $133,449 each; two autopulse machines, costing a total of $54,598.33; two Lifepak 15 defibrillators, costing $67,925 total; two new IV pumps, costing $22,000 total; and various other pieces of equipment.

Cieslinski said the ambulances are the safest on the market, as they have harnesses for the medics riding in the back.

"One of those two ambulances is about to go into service any day," he said. "We still have one ambulance in service with 302,676 miles on it, and we'll use that one until about January. The ones we replaced both had more than 300,000 miles on them."

Previous to buying the autopulse machines, the district was forced to borrow units from CoxHealth.

"Cox would not buy them, and we didn't have the money," Cieslinski said. "I firmly believe having those is our responsibility."

Cieslinski said the Lifepak units the district had were about 13 years old, so replacing those was a welcomed change. However, the district still has more ambulances in service than it has autopulses or IV pumps.

"We make sure one of the truck with those is in Cassville, and the other in Shell Knob," he said. "They have to be in good locations in the county, and we have not had any complaints."

Along with equipment, the district has also put about $40,000 into renovations of its Shell Knob building, recently acquired at no cost from the Central Crossing Fire Department.

"It's in the deed that we cannot sell the building, and if we stop using it, it will go back to Central Crossing," Cieslinski said. "We only had one restroom and one shower functioning there, and now we were able to get two, one for men and one for women."

The district has also replaced windows, renovated the kitchen, redone the floors, fixed leaks and replaced garage doors that were caved in.

Municipalities and un-incorporated areas included in the district are: Cassville, Jenkins, Wheaton, Ridgley, Butterfield, Exeter, Washburn, Seligman, Eagle Rock, Golden and Shell Knob.

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