Benton County Surveys Alternative Ways To Fund Ambulance Services

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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.

1 Comment

  • Mel Sams

    I am not sure if anyone in Benton County or the Ambulance Company has got or has asked about a ” Break Down ” in amount of emergency calls that have been responded to and that a resident of Benton County in the rural area have actually been taking to the Hospital by the Ambulance Service. What needs to be looked at are ALL the Emergency Calls only in the rural areas they are only when the Residents have had to use the Ambulance for transport.. With what I see on the News and Read of the amount of money they say is needed, I can not see that amount of Ambulance runs into the County and ” Not ” in the Cities of Benton County. So if you live in the affected area you may want to Ask for the Information Reports on how many ambulance calls were gone on and how many were transported ” Only ” for Benton County rural areas.
    And also they Can Not use Motor Vehicle Accidents as being part of the residents of the County since that would need to be Billed to the Automobile Insurance Company of the person (s) that were taking to the Hospital by Ambulance. I was a Fire Chief/EMT Medical First responder for years and I can Never seen such a High Dollar amount for the amount of Emergency Ambulance Calls .. So I hope someone ask for this information and then get it Out in the Open for Everyone to see.

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