Grand EMS makes case for mill levy increase with a likely ballot proposal on horizon
Grand County Emergency Medical Services is spreading information about its potential ballot measure ask, which could raise agency revenues by over $1.5 million.
During Tuesday’s Grand County commissioners’ meeting, Grand EMS Chief Robert Good reviewed some basic information and questions coming from the public about the measure that will likely be on the November ballot.
Grand EMS has 41 full-time staff operating out of four stations with eight ambulances in use and three in reserve. Despite not increasing its mill levy since 2003, the department has faced a growing demand for services while struggling with aging buildings and equipment.
To address these needs, Good said EMS will be going to voters to ask for a 1.75 mill increase. This would equal a property tax increase of $62 per year for someone with a $500,000 home.
Grand County residents currently pay 2 mills for EMS. This ask would bring the rate for EMS up to 3.75 mills. Property owners can calculate their individual tax impacts of this ballot question using an online property tax calculator at http://www.GrandCountyEMS.com.
Good said at least one person has asked why EMS isn’t looking to increase user fees, but more than half of EMS’s revenues already come from service fees as compared to 44% from property taxes.
Increasing services fees isn’t practical, according to Good, who pointed out calls dropped by more than 10% last year due to the pandemic, showing how fickle the fees can be.
“When you rely on user fees, this is where we got into a bit of a problem,” Good said. “We were 22% behind in revenue last year because we rely so heavily on user fees.”
Grand EMS ended up having to borrow money from the county to make up the difference. That money will have to be paid back. Another misconception about EMS is that the agency is funded out of Grand County’s general fund.
As for demand, Grand EMS has seen a 9.5% increase in calls compared to 2019. Out-of-county transfers have spiked by 10%.
Good said Grand EMS wants to add six more staff and an ambulance over the next several years to address these increases and that the mill levy increase would help cover these additions.
Staff retention is also a big goal for Grand EMS, which has seen a large turnover with workers beginning with the county but soon finding better paying jobs elsewhere.
“To be competitive — just to be in the ballpark of competitive with the Front Range — we’re looking at needing to do a 7.5% pay raise across the board,” Good said.
Questions must be approved by Sept. 3 to make it onto November’s ballot. The county has not yet officially placed the EMS mill levy question. Good offered a similar presentation in Grand Lake on July 12 and is planning more stops across Grand County in the coming weeks.
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