ELECTION NEXT TUES., NOV. 2ND – County Ambulance District Seeking 35¢ Tax Levy on November 2nd Ballot by Kris Richards

October 28, 2021

The Washington County Ambulance District Board officially approved a referendum for vote on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 that seeks the support of County Voters for a temporary 35¢ per $100 assessed valuation assessment.

The question is the lone item on the ballot for a Tuesday, Nov. 2nd election in Washington County.

The balloting is a County-wide issue and will be voted on at all precincts.

The tax proposition is a temporary one, with a ‘sunset clause’ that will take the tax off at the end of ten years. The 35¢ per $100 would cost an average household in Washington County approximately $21 a year on real estate and from $5 to $6 dollars on personal property.

With a final visit before ‘press time’ with Ambulance District Administrator Justin Duncan, the discussion was about how people have reacted to the proposed tax levy. Duncan said, “First, to all our voters, please get out and vote. Express your opinion and exercise your fundamental right to vote. WCAD will be here for you, no matter the outcome of this vote. We are asking for your help to grow and expand to meet the needs of the patients we are called to serve. Making the decision to come to the voters didn’t come lightly. Rising costs of doing business, increased call volume, flat insurance reimbursement, changes in medical billing practices all came together in a perfect storm and here we are. The patients are sicker. The need for our services are greater. We are proud to be here and be of service, but we need funding help, plain and simple.”
Duncan went on to explain, “We need to meet the needs of our community and honestly, we’re not doing that right now in all of the areas we are obligated to provide coverage. We need to grow in order to do so. We have tapped out funding sources and simply can’t add anymore vehicles, equipment or people – but we need to. We have written and been awarded grants to increase revenue for the District, we have taken on contracts outside of the County for education and leadership to increase revenue for the District. But those sources of additional revenue for WCAD are fairly well maxed out at this point. That is why the District is coming to our Voters for help.”
The ambulance district has three houses serving Potosi, Old Mines and Belgrade. Justin Duncan commented on the service for Washington County. Duncan said, “I know many folks think ‘I have an ambulance in my community already’ – true, many do. With stations in Potosi, Old Mines and Belgrade, we have okay coverage today. However, a station out 185 and then out 8 West will both help balance coverage for the County. By freeing up funding the budget for capital, that allows for more crews. The more crews we have on duty, the greater the chance that your local ambulance stays available for your community. Each and every day, our “outlying crews” are pulled for calls for service outside of their primary response area – be it an emergency call, coverage for the center of the County or out of county transfers.”

When asked about the public’s reception and perception so far on the tax levy question, Duncan stated, “We’ve had some questions and heard some things first and second hand, one comment that I’ve heard was citizens of the County are the ones that are being asked to pay for this additional tax, but they don’t get anything extra out of it.” False - we are one of the last counties in Missouri that accepts county taxes (real or personal property taxes) in lieu of co-payment, deductible or any out-of-pocket expense. Simply put: County residents have no out of pocket expenses for their ambulance service. I would consider that a benefit for county residents vs. those passing through.”

Another statement ambulance staff have fielded is “WCAD got a special tax to pay for House #1.” False. The last tax was in 2006 and it was a ½ cent sales tax for general revenue. The Ambulance District took out a loan to pay for House #1 (Potosi) when it was constructed (completed in 2015).

“WCAD doesn’t staff the houses they have 24/7 currently.” False. Duncan said, “Station 1 has three crews operating out of it. Station 2 has one crew operating out of it. Station 3 has one crew operating out of it. All stations are staffed 24/7/365. Now, they all run calls. That’s what they are designed to do. We have a “move-up” plan in place to provide the best coverage with the number of units available at any given time. It’s not always the best scenario, but we do the best we can with what we currently have.”

The District has a detailed 10 year plan if Prop Ambulance is successful. Duncan said he’s proud of the team they have at WCAD.

Justin Duncan finished the discussion, “We are here for this community and the patients we are proud to serve 24/7/365. Now we need some help to continue to provide second to none care. It is up to the Voters of Washington County to decide. The Election is next Tuesday. I thank everyone for the consideration and the support we get everyday!”

The Washington County Ambulance District has set up an informational website with a large amount of facts and figures about the District. The goals and future for the County’s Ambulance District are presented for the public. Visit the information site at www.WCADpropAmbulance.com and learn more.

Absentee ballots are now available and there will be voting on Saturday, Oct. 30th from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the Courthouse.