By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
Tucker County Commissioner, Mike Rosenau, made a motion to send a proposed levy to the state for approval to be placed on this fall’s ballot. The motion was approved with two yes votes from Rosenau and Lowell Moore. Commissioner Fred Davis was not be present due to work schedule conflicts.
The levy proposed to the state reads as follows:
“Election to authorize levies for the years beginning July 1, 2023; July 1, 2024; July 1, 2025; and July 1,
2026, for the purposes of providing operational and maintenance support for the Emergency Ambulance
Service. The approximate amount to be raised is $401,000 per year according to the order of the Tucker
County Commission entered on the 17th day of August 2022.
The levy shall be on Class 1 property 1.94 cents per $100 of assessed value: on Class 2 property 3.88
cents per $100 of assessed value; on Class 3 property 7.76 cents per $100 of assessed value; and on
Class 4 property 7.76 cents per $100 of assessed value. The increases to current property tax amounts
will be between 3.9 percent and 7.8 percent. For property with an appraised value of $150,000 and assessed value of $90,000, the ambulance levy will be $34.92.
In the event the separate and aggregate assessed valuation of each class of taxable property within the
County of Tucker changes during the term of the special levy, the levy rate in any class of property may
be adjusted so that the projected tax collection will remain approximately $401,000 capped amount in
any fiscal year.
The total capped amount of this tax may be adjusted downward on an annual basis only if other state
tax authorities to support EMS are enabled and utilized by the County to permit these tax offsets. This
determination shall be made by the County Commission on a fiscal year basis.”
The ball is now in the Ambulance Authority’s court to inform the residents of Tucker County of the facts and let the residents decided once again whether they want a levy to keep two ambulances or run at the current state of just one ambulance crew. Public meetings will be held, and everyone is encouraged to attend and listen to the facts and base their decision off of those facts. Those public hearing dates will be announced at a later date.
The Ambulance Authority has enlisted the help and guidance from several entities including Clinton Burley, president and chief executive officer of HealthNet Aeromedical Services. Burley is highly involved in the emergency medical services and provides services to rural EMS through EMSAC.
EMSAC, or Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council, is a legislative body created by West Virginia government whose fundamental purpose is to provide guidance to the Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) involving all aspects of EMS.
West Virginia Director of OEMS, Joseph “Jody” Ratliff spoke to the Ambulance Authority and commissioners providing guidance from the state level. Ratliff’s number one advice is to make sure EMS covers the county the best that they can and for all entities involved to set down at one table and share data with each other. Ratliff said, “Without the data it is hard to make a good solid decision.”
Trust is another key goal for the Ambulance Authority and the county commission. Ratliff said, “When EMS and the county commission work together there has to be a level of trust. If it is not there, then nothing works.”
Ratliff said, “There is a lot of challenges with EMS, and the question is always where we are going to get funding. Well, there is a misconception, and that misconception is because we bill on insurance, we get paid for what we bill for. That is highly wrong. It is not how it works. It is not even close to how it works. And how we get the bill is one way also. When hospitals do their billings, they get to itemize every little thing. The ambulance does not. EMS only gets to bill for load fee and mileage fee and only when we transport. If we do not transport, then all those things that we do we do not get to bill for.”
President of the Ambulance Authority, Dennis Filler explained to the commission that without the EMS ordinance money they were collecting EMS would be running in a deficient by end of May 2023. Filler said, “I have faith in our accountant and all information pertaining to the budget is open for viewing by the commission.” Filler went on to say that their budgets have come a long way compared to what they use to be and with current projections they would be out of money before the new fiscal year in 2023.
Even if the levy passes this fall proceeds from that levy will not be available until September of next year due to the fact the levy would go out with the property taxes in July. Running just one crew will not be sufficient to make it to the end of the fiscal year either based on the fact with just running one crew there is less billing going out and being collected than with two crews.
Commissioner Fred Davis said, “The thing is you have enough money to last to May, but you do not the staff to run two crews.” Diane Hinkle said, “We had enough to run two crews but have lost several since we lost the ordinance.” Davis asked, “You have the money, but do not have enough people to work, is that correct?” Filler answered that they did not have enough money to hire new crews. Davis said, “But the money is there if you wanted to run two crews?” Excitedly Filler explained that no it could not run two crews at the moment.
After hearing comments from the audience Davis said, “You do not need to sit here and laugh at me when I am asking questions. That is what the hell goes on when people do not get along and try to talk. I am trying to ask questions and you guys are making fun of me. I do not think that is very good. I will help you, but you guys have not come to ask us for money.”
Filler responded with, “How many times have we came and asked you?” Chris Davis jumped in and said, “We have worked hard directly with our accountant, so we know exactly where our finances are now. He is doing a great job. He is getting all the expenses, and everything lined up, so we know exactly what our expenses are. We have our year end expenses. Our budget was taken from that year end from last year. We have trickled everything down we could. We got rid of our escrows which put us at that $1 million mark.
Now obviously with one crew that stuff is going to drop. The idea of our budget with that $1.5, we have taken away our escrow account. Without the escrow and having less people out working we will not have as many reimbursements from the actual runs.
Without our escrow there was about a $300,000 deficient to get to the end of the year, but with using that escrow account that is what is going to get us to May.”
Filler also requested help from the spokesman from Timberline Ski Resort and Canaan Valley Ski resort. While Matt Baker from Canaan stated he was not in the position to offer that assistance himself, Tom Price from Timberlake said, “We would be happy to help in any way that we can. I am learning more and more each time I sit through one of these meetings. We looked through our numbers from the ski area and there are very few. We do understand that they bring families in, and they are staying in the valley. So, the impact of people getting injured in the ski area verses the total impact is not apples to apples. But we know it is very important for the safety of our guests, and the safety of our employees is paramount.”
The final recommendations and data collected from Burley and his crew with EMSAC will be finalized in the upcoming days and shared with the commissioners.