(KMOV.com) – EMS crews in St Charles County are pleading with the taxpayers to consider a tax hike.
A property tax hike is on the April ballot and the county-wide ambulance district says it desperately needs the money.
Officials asay there are five open positions in the ambulance district currently and instead of filling them, if the measure doesn’t pass, more positions will be eliminated.
“You can only spread resources so thin until holes show up,” said spokesperson Martin Limpert. “We’re just in a predicament with what has happened with the economy and what has happened with healthcare reform, that to keep up with the growth we desperately need this increase.”
The ambulance district has not seen a tax rate increase since 1975. Now, the district serves 385,000 residents over an area of 585 square miles.
Limbert also says the district has difficulty reaching some voters who mistakenly believe it gets funding from fire districts.
“A lot of people have moved here from St. Louis where it’s fire based EMS and they believe that because we run a lot of calls we’re all the same,” he said. “It is kind of difficult to get that distinction that we are a separate service.”
The measure would be an 11 cent property tax hike, meaning about $30 a year for the average homeowner in St. Charles County.
To cut the budget without cutting corners, the district eliminated their “compassionate billing” program that helped residents defray the high cost of a 911 call.
Since then, medics say they hear from residents with fixed incomes who are reluctant to call for help.
“It’s extremely sad because we don’t want anyone to not be able to get the services they need,” Limbert said.
The district plans to buy new vehicles if they receive funding, saying many vehicles have several hundred thousand miles on them.
Additionally the district has one station south of Highway 40 where about 90,000 residents live. That is slated for closure without additional funding.
If the tax doesn’t go through they’ll likely pull the crew back into busier areas, meaning residents of New Melle or Foristell could be waiting for an ambulance to come from Lake St. Louis Wentzville or O’Fallon.