The Seventh District Volunteer Rescue Squad requested from the county commissioners permission to hold a public hearing regarding a tax increase in the area at Tuesday’s meeting.
The rescue squad is requesting a tax increase from 1.1 cents to 3 cents on every $100 of assessed value in order to cover increasing operating expenses, equipment costs, pay for a daytime crew member and costs to remodel the existing facility.
According to Matt Coliflower, vice president of the department, the rescue squad runs an average of 700 to 800 calls a year and has 60 squad members and 25 auxiliary members with skill levels ranging from CPR-certified staff to paramedics.
A tax increase has not been requested for the rescue squad in more than 20 years, he said, since the initial 0.9 cents to 1.1 cents on every $100 of assessed value.
The department said the primary reason for this tax request is to fund a daytime duty crew to make up for the lack of manpower available during the day, in addition to the need to renovate the facility, which was last retooled 15 years ago.
Other operational expenses that continue to rise include medical supplies, medications, ambulance maintenance, fuel bills, protective gear, information technology and utilities.
Colliflower told the St. Mary’s commissioners ambulance maintenance has increased to more than $6,500 per year, fuel costs for ambulances exceed $8,000 a year and utilities exceed $17,000 per year.
Medical supplies and other patient care consumables that were once provided by MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital free of charge must now be purchased from outside vendors. The current cost of supplies exceeds $6,000 a year, not including medications.
Protective emergency services gear now costs $1,200 per member and reporting completed via the internet and use of computers requires maintenance of computers, laptops and internet access.
The amount of the increase would depend upon the value of the individual’s land and improvements as established by the State Department of Assessment and Taxation. The average impact per household is projected to be $35.72 per property.
The rescue squad received $97,291 in emergency services tax revenue in 2019 and $96,723 in 2018.
If this tax increase were to be approved, additional increases would not be warranted as the maximum amount allowed is 3 cents on each $100.
Proposed revenue from the community in 2020 includes $65,000 from fundraising and $75,617 from donations, after 2019 brought in $82,394 from fundraising and $73,415 from donations and 2018 brought in $66,102 from fundraising and $71,408 from donations.
The squad’s 2020 estimated expenses totals $632,369 in addition to $250,000 for a new ambulance and $145,000 for a contract for a duty crew, compared to actual expenses of 227,663 in 2019 and $204,221 in 2018.
Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) thanked department staff for the “phenomenal” work they do in the county before commissioners, excluding Commissioner John O’ Connor (R) who was not present to vote, approved the Seventh District Volunteer Rescue Squad to hold a public hearing for the proposed rescue tax rate increase for the Seventh and Fourth districts. Public hearing results and public comment will be submitted to the county for consideration as a part of the fiscal 2021 budget process. The public hearing is planned for April 21.