Levy increase proposed for EMS

For the first time in 15 years, Fulton County voters will be asked for new money in order to keep up with Emergency Medical Services expenses.

The department is requesting that an additional two mills be attached to the two-mill, five-year renewal levy appearing on the ballot Nov. 3. The increase would generate a total of $2.61 million annually beginning in 2017. The present levy provides $1.51 million a year.

County Commissioner Bill Rufenacht said the additional money is needed to meet cost and wage increases of the past decade and a half. Equipment and medication costs have risen, as well as the need to hire full-time personnel to replace a shrinking core of volunteers.

An evaluation the commissioners conducted in 1998 through an advisory group found that the majority of the county’s EMS departments lacked enough volunteer personnel to respond to emergencies. The shortage occurred primarily between the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“Fast forward 17 years, and this is the same issue we face today,” Rufenacht said.

The group also reported that, while some county businesses allow for flexibility regarding employees who are EMS volunteers, the fear was that the employers could change their positions. In that event, adequate volunteer staffing could prove difficult in maintaining advanced life support (ALS), the group said.

The additional two mills being requested would help to alleviate that problem, in part, by providing paid personnel where necessary.

The high standards and efforts of the county EMS crews are appreciated, so “we need to make sure we are taking care of the people of Fulton County,” Commissioner Paul Barnaby said.

Commissioner Jeff Rupp said the voters will ultimately decide what level of emergency service they want.

“As county commissioners, we believe this ballot issue establishes the ability to provide the necessary services today, while allowing for the opportunity to expand and grow within Fulton County. It will be up to the residents to decide what levels of service they want,” he said.