How Is Emergency Medical Service Funded?
Communities across the country are celebrating National EMS Week, May 16-22, 2021. The week is dedicated to raising awareness for the life-saving service funded by property taxes and emergency personnel who provide it.
Benton County Fire District 4 provides both Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support. ALS is the highest level of emergency medical service available using Paramedics with more than 1,800 hours of training. These medical professionals are able to start IVs, surgically clear airways, stop pressure bleeds, and perform advanced cardiac life support procedures.
Benton 4’s EMS program is funded by an EMS levy that is capped at $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s about $200 per year for the owner of a $400,000 home.
“I had one resident tell me that we’re more cost-effective – and faster – than his current health care coverage. That made me laugh,” said Fire Chief Paul Carlyle. “EMS does have a role to play in the delivery of health care, but it’s to stabilize a patient for trauma, accident and injury. We’re able to do this because of community support.”
Voters last approved the EMS levy rate of $0.50 in 2016, and it has fallen to $0.38 per $1,000 in 2021. Levy rates fall as property values increase to limit a fire district to roughly the same amount of revenue per year.
Fire districts occasionally ask their communities to “lift the lid” back to the original voter-approved amount. Lid lifts help an agency keep up with higher call volumes and increased costs for service. For example, personnel responded to 1,686 calls in 2020, almost 5% higher than 2019. Emergency medical service (EMS) accounted for 67% of all calls.
“We want our community to understand how EMS is funded,” said Chief Carlyle. “They control our budget with their vote for revenue requests, and through our locally-elected Board of Fire Commissioners. It’s a great system of checks and balances.”