Majority of Logan County residents pay an ad valorem tax for Emergency Medical Services while others do not. Is it fair or unfair? Depends on who you ask, but the Logan County Commissioners will look to a plan that will keep all residents with ambulance services.
Guthrie News Page was at the meeting and has provided the entire video at the bottom of this article. The EMS topic begins 1:20 into the meeting and picks up again at 1:43:08.
In a regular scheduled meeting on March 2, the commissioners heard from Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow, EMS Director Dale Ackerson with the State Health Department and former and longtime EMS Director Shawn Rogers on the EMS layout of the county.
Harlow opened the meeting by saying, “The Guthrie Fire Department provides EMS services, along with Crescent and Cashion, and are funded by the 522 tax districts.”
The tax districts, which includes the school districts of Guthrie, Crescent and Cashion, pay three mills on their ad valorem taxes. That money is collected from the county and in return paid to the EMS entities.
However, residents outside of the three school districts do not pay the ad valorem tax, but currently receive ambulance services.
“The City of Guthrie is faced with shortfall in funding covering these areas unfunded. We want to work with you guys (commissioners) to come up with a plan to subsidize what we have been covering for at least 20 to 30 years with no funding,” Harlow said.
Although not required after the 2010 passing of House Bill 1888, Guthrie EMS responds to calls outside the boundaries in Mulhall, Langston and Coyle unsubsidized. Crescent EMS goes outside of their boundaries to cover the Marshall area (roughly 58 miles) unsubsidized and Cashion EMS covers an area of four to five miles unsubsidized.
The Town of Marshall recently saw their EMS service closed down after a shortfall of funding.
Harlow continued, “In a nutshell, those living in the Guthrie school district are paying for everyone else that we respond to (Mulhall, Langston and Coyle).”
Commissioner Mike Pearson asked Harlow what does the three mills fund and how would it benefit everyone if all residents paid the ad valorem tax?
Harlow responded by saying the ad valorem tax funds the service and the benefits over time would be more man power, quality of service and coverage.
Commissioner Marven Goodman made reference that Guthrie did not want to provide the service outside their district lines because they are not making any money and the system was broke.
Harlow quickly denied the statements.
Has nothing to do with making money,” Harlow said.
“I thought that was the whole issue,” Goodman followed up with.
“We are not a profit service. We’re (Guthrie EMS) trying to break even and we have fell short for many years,” Harlow said.
Guthrie City Manager, Sereniah Breland, echoed the statements of Harlow.
“It’s not an effort to make more money. It’s an effort to have quality in our services and not allow the burden of the cost to rely just on the 522 (Guthrie school district) that exist.
After the topic was discussed for approximately 63 minutes and the room emptied, the commissioners continued their conversation later in the comments from commissioners portion of the agenda.
“I’m not sure that I agree that the best thing for the people is for everybody to be paying for the same ad valorem tax all over the county. I am a big fan of not fixing things that are not broke and I haven’t seen anything broken yet,” Goodman said.
“What they (EMS) are supposed to be focusing on is providing ambulance service. Not how much taxes someone is paying them. If it’s a losing proposition, money wise, to go outside their district, that’s a business decision they will have to make,” Goodman said.
Goodman has expressed other concerns with EMS, including appointments and audits.
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The commissioners agreed that an advisory committee would need to be formed to help determine what the proper action would be with or without the EMS entities.
Commissioner Monty Piercy said residents outside of the EMS districts should have a say with a vote on whether they want ambulance service.
“It would be wrong for us (commissioners) not to have an option to vote on this thing. I feel they would want an ambulance service.”