City Council approves facilitation of funds to EMS for 2021 budget
The financial struggles facing the EMS services in Moffat County are well documented.
Last year alone, Memorial Regional Health’s EMS service line lost more than $754,000, which is a deficit that is simply unsustainable moving forward, says MRH’s Chief Nursing Officer Amy Peck.
Knowing that, MRH is weighing its options and is looking at a 2021 mill levy campaign to create an EMS District for Moffat County. With a potential 2021 mill levy (property tax where one mill is $1 per $1,000 assessed value) campaign on the horizon, MRH asked for $17,500 each from the City of Craig, the Craig Rural Fire Protection District and the county to help with a 2021 campaign. MRH will match with $17,500 for 2021 as well, creating a unique partnership among the four local entities to work together toward a solution to a financial problem involving an essential service to the community.
After approval of funds from the Fire Protection District and the county, City Councilors unanimously approved Tuesday night the facilitation of $17,500 to EMS. Roughly $40,000 of the $70,000 contributed in total from the four entities will go toward attorney fees to help determine and map an EMS district.
Prior to approving the facilitation of funds, Councilman Tony Bohrer asked Peck why EMS couldn’t just fold in with the Fire District instead of going through a campaign to create a new district and ask residents to support it on the ballot in 2021.
In order to place a mill levy on taxpayers, a new EMS district would need to be drawn. To first get the mill levy on the ballot, according to an attorney who Peck consulted, there needs to be a service plan approved by the county, an approval from the court, and a strategic election campaign.
Councilman Chris Nichols, a board member of the Fire District, chimed in to answer Councilman Bohrer’s question.
“It comes down to the level of service, and I think the community needs to decide what level of service they want from EMS,” Councilman Nichols said. “It’s a vital service to the community and is essential. The EMS at Memorial Regional Health runs more than 2,000 calls a year, whereas Fire/Rescue runs roughly 500. We just don’t have the staffing in the Fire District to handle that level of calls.”
Councilman Nichols added that EMS’s loss each year is more than the Fire District’s operating costs, so there was no possible way the Fire District could take on that type of financial hit. The Fire District currently operates with 3.4 mill levies.
The thought of approaching voters with a mill levy is an issue that Councilman Bohrer feels will be tough, especially with a high cost of an election campaign, which could lead taxpayers to vote against the measure and cause a setback, time-wise and financially.
“We all know that mill levies are very hard to pass in Moffat County,” Councilman Bohrer said. “I guess that’s why I’m thinking if something’s already established (Fire District), why can’t we combine them?”
“I think we all know that everyone involved in this can’t afford to take this on themselves,” Peck said. “We all deserve to have an ambulance show up when we’re in trouble.”
Peck said EMS will put together a board that will begin working to figure out where EMS fits best, but the preferred outcome is to have EMS under its own district and supported by tax payers in Moffat County. There is no specific proposed mill levy number for EMS at this time.
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Moffat County is requesting a move to the less-restrictive Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors in the COVID-19 dial from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.