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Ambulance board ponders tax hike

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

The Southern Platte County Ambulance Board has begun discussing measures to deal with the recently passed Senate Bill 711. The bill requires local taxing entities to roll back their tax levies during reassessment years if needed to avoid a windfall of income as a result of the reassessment.

The ambulance board began to discuss possibly raising their current levy from the current 8-cents to perhaps as high as the previous 14-cents.

“I talked with several people about this and they suggested not to panic on this thing, but we do have to protect ourselves,” said Bobby Kincaid, board president. “We should protect ourselves by raising rates, we don't want to wait. My recommendation is to look at this because we may have to raise a cent or two down the road.”

Another board member said the legislation was politically motivated.

“It's my understanding this is an election year stunt,” said Fred Sanchez, board member. “The problem is this is politically charged and we may come under fire again and give our sheriff (deputy) his money's worth. You used the term 'no time to panic' but there is an urgency to this. This legislation is meant to pander to the taxpayer. No one argues we are in a dire situation here, we need to address this and address it quickly.”

Personal property is reassessed in odd number years and the bill forces entities to begin rolling back their levy rates by 2011.

“Every member of this board has been pounded like hard steel, I have full confidence in this board to do the right thing,” said Sanchez.

The board then asked their lawyer for his opinion on the legislation.

“This is probably the worst written piece of legislation I've seen in 25 years,” said Daniel Fowler, lawyer.

According to Fowler, the bill can be interpreted several different ways because it is not very clear, and may actually cause the district to have to budget two years in advance.

Some board members asked why the legislation was presented and passed by the Missouri government.

“What is the reasoning to do this, to make us raise taxes?” asked Scott Ritchey, board member.

“I guess the purpose is to prevent what happened in this county the past couple of years,” said Fowler.

Fowler said the values of property went up with reassessment, but many entities kept their tax rates the same and they received lots of new cash. Fowler also explained the legislation applies only to existing buildings and not new construction.

“It appears you look at what the revenue is then add a consumer price index adjustment and then roll back the rate,” said Fowler. “You will get additional assistance from new construction.”

Kincaid said the district needs to really look at protecting itself from being shortchanged.
“We have to take a closer look at this,” said Kincaid. “When I first talked about this I said we may have (to go back to) the rate of 14 cents to protect ourselves.”

“I can assure you the writers of this bill were not graduates of the Park Hill School District,” said Sanchez. “When the fire and ambulance districts are short changed, people can die.”

Some members thought the board could wait at least a year before raising the rate to see what happens with the legislation

“I think we can wait a year, we can just budget for two years this year,” said Ron Wheeler, board member.

All taxing entities are required to set their tax rate by the end of August for the year.

“August 28 is just two more meetings away,” said Sanchez.

“We try to do the right thing by lowering the levy and then we have something like this,” said Zirschky referencing the legislation.

The board did not make a firm decision on the issue on Wednesday, but decided to continue looking at the issue in the future.

The next meeting of the board is on Wednesday, June 18 at 7 p.m.

MAST ambulance representatives at the meeting expressed some concern with the upcoming construction along 45 Highway west of 9 Highway and said the situation may cause delays for ambulances in the construction zones.

“Our biggest worry is that 45 Highway is going to ruin our world,” said Doug Hooten, MAST executive director. “We have no idea what it will do to response times. I feel traffic will be extremely congested.”

Hooten said MAST may be moving the current stationary positions of some ambulances to try to help cover the South Platte area after construction begins.

“Our plan is to adjust the system status to have more hours along Barry Road,” said Hooten.


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