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Examiner
  • CJC seeks levy increase

  • The Central Jackson County Fire Protection District plans to ask voters in August for a property tax increase for emergency medical services.

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  • The Central Jackson County Fire Protection District plans to ask voters in August for a property tax increase for emergency medical services.
    It’s part of an effort to shift EMS costs from the city of Blue Springs solely to CJC, which also covers Grain Valley, Lake Tapawingo and some unincorporated parts of the county.
    The vote is Aug. 6. Residents of the fire district are being asked for a levy increase of 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The increase would start in December – a nickel the first year, a dime the second year and then the full 15 cents in the third year.
    “And it’s going to be strictly for EMS,” Chief Steve Westermann said Tuesday.
    The levy would be increased by 71 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for 2013, then rise to $1.58 in 2014 and then the full $2.38 in 2015.
    “So if you have a $200,000 house, less than $6 a month” when it’s fully phased in, Westermann said.
    Also, CJC has been rolling back its property tax rate, as required by Missouri law, to offset sales tax money it gets. If voters approve this increase, their property taxes would still be slightly less than where they were a few years ago.
    Westermann said 70 to 75 percent of the CJC’s calls are medical, and emergency call rates have increased over the years, particularly in rapidly growing Grain Valley. In 1989, there were roughly 1,111 calls in Blue Springs, a number that jumped to 2,858 in 2012. In Grain Valley, the increase was even sharper, from roughly 215 to 656, according to the fire district.
    “Grain Valley itself has about triple the calls,” Westermann said.
    The city of Blue Springs holds the license for emergency medical service for the area CJC covers, and it has contracted that work out to CJC since 1992 but still provides large parts of its budget. Plans are to shift that license to CJC.
    Here’s how that $2.5 million annual budget for EMS breaks down:
    • $1.4 million is collected as fees for emergency services. The city use to collect and remit that money but recently shifted that over to CJC.
    • $800,000 comes out of city sales taxes to support the service.
    • $300,000 comes out of CJC’s fire levy.
    Also, the city helps CJC will capital costs such as new ambulances. That would end, but with the levy CJC would have money to cover those costs.
    “We go through ambulances quickly,” Westermann said.
    For bigger costs, such as perhaps another fire station some years in the future, the district would have go back to the voters, as it has done in the past.
    “We have very good support in the community,” Westermann said.
    If voters approve the levy increase, the city’s $800,000 share would be phased out over three years while the levy increase is phased in.
    Page 2 of 2 - Also, the cities of Grain Valley and Lake Tapawingo do not pay CJC for services the way Blue Springs does, and this change would spread those taxes over the entire CJC service area.
    “This way, with the levy, everyone will be paying in,” Westermann said.
    Officials stress that this approach is about maintaining quality services and making those services financially stable.
    “The city has wanted to do this for a long time. We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Westermann said.
    The fire district is one of just three fire service agencies in the state to have accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. Westermann said response times are good – less than eight minutes from phone call to arrival on the scene – and improving, and that CJC meets the standard of having at least two paramedics at each call involving a life-threatening event.
    One other measure Westermann pointed to: Nationwide, about 6 percent of heart attack patients later are able to walk out of the hospital. CJC says its rate is 37 percent. Seattle, among the best in the country, is at 50 percent, the district says.
    Westermann said CJC has improved its dispatching in a way that help is rolling while the situation is still being assessed, getting aid to an ailing person that much more quickly.
    “Essentially what we’re doing is bringing the ER to you and delivering you to the OR,” he said.
     
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