BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) – Benton County voters gathered Monday to discuss what to do about funding rural ambulance services.
County officials have two Options on the table to provide people living in unincorporated areas with emergency services.
More than 60 people were in attendance at the Benton County Courthouse, sharing their opinions on how to fund ambulance services outside of city limits.
Some in attendance say this issue has been on their mind for more than 4 years.
“I’ve been interested in this right from the get-go, and I believe in equality,” said Wonda Jendrusiak, a resident of unincorporated Benton County.
Those in attendance discussed the pros, and cons, of two proposed ways of funding EMS services in rural parts of Benton County.
The county has to find a way to offset the more than $1 million per year that the services will cost.
One proposal involves a fee that charges taxpayers in unincorporated county areas $40 per year, per household.
Another would impose a millage increase on all taxpayers within city limits, averaging about $4 to every $100,000 of appraised property.
Some residents suggested that they do an alternative sales tax across the county.
“The fairest option is if they could designate a sales tax that goes specifically goes for an ambulance, that would be more fair,” Jendrusiak said. “But, [of both options], the millage tax would be the fairest in my mind, ” Jendrusiak said.
Many at the meeting argued that a sales tax across the county would be fair, as taxes would only reflect as much as a shopper could afford to spend.
“Everybody would be paying what they could afford according to what they could spend.” Jendrusiak said.
Many at the meeting seemed to agree that ambulance coverage needed to be funded one way, or another, in order to prevent money being taken from county and city budgets.
“If the taxpayers do choose not to vote to impose a fee, or impose a millage, it’s going to come out of the county budget,” Judge Bob Clinard said.
Many of those in favor of the millage tax argued that those who live in cities often use lakes and other recreation areas in the unincorporated county, which means ambulance services should be a shared fee.
“We who live in the county, yeah, we chose the county,” Jendrusiak said, “But, we pay our taxes in the city. Not only in our real estate taxes, but we come to the cities to shop. That takes gas money; our clothing, our food.”
If approved to go on the ballot, Benton County residents will vote on at least one of the two proposals in the November 4 General Election.