EMS fix gets half of county tax hikes

Staff writer

After tinkering, changing the numbers, and contemplating what matters more and what matters less, county commissioners proposed a 2017 budget with a five mill increase Monday.

“I can’t say I’m happy, but I’m content,” commissioner Dan Holub said.

“I don’t think any of us are happy, but it’s what it is,” commissioner Randy Dallke said.

“This is the first budget that I’ve had spending cramps over and headaches,” Holub said.

The proposed $9.3 million budget is $763,487 greater than last year. The five mill increase will generate $626,080 with the balance coming from increased valuation.

About half the total increase is devoted to fixing problems with EMS.

Commissioners hope to solve problems with operation of county emergency medical services by adding four additional full-time paramedics to complement two full-time EMTs hired July 1. EMS has had to dispatch ambulances from towns other than where they were needed many times because of part-time staff shortages.

Also under contemplation is eliminating on-call personnel in favor of paying other EMTs prevailing wages to cover vacation and other absences of full-timers. That is expected to save personnel costs. Additionally, commissioners factored in anticipated revenue increases from catching up on billing that is months in arrears.

Under the proposed budget, taxes levied for EMS will be $450,556, a $376,386 increase from 2015.

“We knew this ambulance thing was coming, we’ve talked about it for years. Hopefully we’ve got it where everyone gets better service,” Dallke said.

The second-largest budget increase, at $352,578, is for Road and Bridge to upgrade maintenance on county roads.

The third-largest budget increase is for employee benefits. Commissioners added $310,339 to cover an anticipated jump in employee health insurance costs.

Another employee for the sheriff’s office, a deputy to provide courtroom security, was approved, although Dallke questioned whether the employee should be a deputy or a security officer.

“I’ve heard a lot of constituents say we don’t need another officer,” Dallke said. “I’m going to say that’s their opinion and they have a right to it.”

To limit the mill levy increase, commissioner Lori Lalouette proposed a lease-purchase agreement for ongoing work on courthouse windows to avoid paying the full cost all at once, which she suggested would reduce the mill levy 3 to 4 mills.

“The five mill increase proposed by the county will increase the annual tax bill on an $80,000 home by $46, or $3.83 per month,” county clerk Tina Spencer said. “This would be true anywhere in the county.”

Spencer said other taxing entities’ increases will also affect taxes for people living in their area.

Last modified Aug. 11, 2016