Funding source for ambulance districts await governor's OK

May 14, 2011

Legislation that would allow startup ambulance districts to be funded through sales tax levies will be sent to the governor’s desk after it was passed by the Missouri General Assembly in the closing days of the legislative session.

Senate Bill 226 allows voters to authorize a sales tax of up to one-half of 1 percent, as an alternative to a property tax levy of up to 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation, to fund newly organized ambulance districts in Missouri. Under the legislation, a petition to establish a district must specify whether it will be funded with a property or sales tax.

Existing regulations only permit a voter-approved property tax levy as a funding source for a new district.

The provision was included in a measure that also establishes a process for voter recall of members of ambulance district boards of directors, which the legislature passed last week after Missouri Senate and House of Representatives versions of the bill were reconciled in conference committee.

The proposal is now set to go to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon, and if signed, the new sales tax provision would take effect Aug. 28.

Along with various industry associations, the Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Medical Services Committee — a group working on a proposal to form an ambulance district to serve Pettis County — has backed the legislation, which supporters said provides a more viable and equitable option for funding new ambulance districts.

“We think there’s probably a dozen places in the state that today or 10 years from now can benefit from this,” said Jason White, of the Missouri Ambulance Association.

Sedalia-Pettis County EMS Committee member John Fritz, who testified in support of the bill before the House General Laws Committee last month, said the sales tax funding mechanism would be a fair option because those who would use the ambulance service do not necessarily pay property taxes in the county.

“I firmly hold that sales tax is a much more equitable vehicle to finance the ambulance district,” Fritz said.

He also felt the sales tax option could improve the prospect of local voters supporting the ambulance district proposal.

Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency Director Dave Clippert, chairman of the EMS Committee, said he believes a sales tax levy would generate about the same amount of funding for the district as a property tax levy, but could be more palatable to voters.

“The sales tax I just think is an easier sell to voters if they wish to go with an ambulance district,” he said.

With the measure approved by the state legislature, Clippert said the committee will be able to prepare work on the petition while the legislation awaits a signature from the governor.

The committee, which is targeting an April 2012 election ballot for putting the ambulance district proposal before Pettis County voters, is scheduled to meet Wednesday.