Callaway ambulance board reverses tax reduction

Another taxing jurisdiction joins list encouraging legislature to uphold governor's tax-cut vetoes; board president does not agree

The Callaway County Ambulance District’s board unanimously reversed a prior voluntary reduction of the district’s property tax rate in order to increase the available property tax. The board then to set the tax levy at .0089 for 2014.

According to CCAD Director Charles Anderson, the district needed the ability to raise its tax ceiling to .1169 because it makes a difference of $50,000.

Board member Chuck Baker asked about the motivation behind the reduction reversal.

“If we continue to see Medicare reimbursement go down, we’re seeing more and more bad debt … as tight as the budget was this year, we may find ourselves in the same position,” Anderson said.

Baker pointed out the district had $197,000 net revenues over budget, but Anderson said the district tries not to use its reserves for day-to-day operations, and Assistant Director Linda Ellis said all it would take would be one disaster to wipe out that amount.

“Typically when we do the budget we spend every penny we bring in,” Anderson said. “I think at the end of the day we’re probably going to need that money.”

Anderson said the .0089 will generate $68,933. He said the levy the district would have been able to pass without reversing the voluntary reduction would have generated only $12,000-$13,000.

In other business, Board President Bill Crull was the only dissenting vote on a resolution encouraging state legislators to uphold Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes on a series of vetoes on tax-cut bills.

Anderson said since the board’s last meeting, the Missouri Ambulance Association (MAA) had done research and put out some information on the bills. He said according to the MAA’s calculations, the district would lose $128,089 rather than the $217,100 projected by the governor’s office.

Crull argued that the tax issues addressed by some of the bills are so complicated “a lot of people don’t know what’s going on.”

A number of other area municipalities have recently passed similar resolutions supporting the governor’s vetoes. Fulton Mayor LeRoy Benton was present at Tuesday night’s meeting and said that, putting politics aside, what it boiled down to for him was the decreased revenue — regardless of which side’s calculations turn out to be correct.

“If the state wants to mess with state revenue, we don’t care, but leave the local revenue alone,” Benton said. “If your board’s like us, we fight for every penny we have. Regardless what we’re looking at, it’s messing with revenue. I would encourage you to say let the veto stand regardless of politics. We have a hard time making it as it is.”

Ambulance board member Norman Forman shared a similar assessment of the situation.

“My issue is the lost revenue,” Forman said. “We just talked about a tax increase … I think if we don’t (support the veto) we’re sending the wrong message that we’re okay with any loss of revenue. We don’t have the luxury of raising rates (without the revenue), our only other option is cutting services.”

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Katherine Cummins can be reached at (573) 826-2418 or katherine@fultonsun.com.

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