by Alan McArthur
On Thursday night the Southern Platte County Ambulance District, SPCAD, voted to reduce its levy from $0.14 to $0.08 per $100 assessed valuation.
This reduction drops the estimated tax revenue for the district from $567,664 to $370,811.
The board also approved a budget for 2008 of $488,137, up from the $426,010 budgeted for 2007.
“At this point I recommend we reduce this levy to $0.08, there are reasons why we could do this,” said Bobby Kincaid, SPCAD president.
Kincaid then listed five points as to why the levy could be reduced to the proposed $0.08. First, the district would receive increased revenue from the reassessment. Second, the estimated surplus is still high from before. Third, because of the experiences from the year, the board knows where the budget should be. Fourth, the board has not had any pressure to reduce the levy. Fifth, it is the right thing to do for the taxpayers.
In his presentation, Kincaid then told the board that at the worst collection rate only 92 percent of taxes might be collected.
“It didn’t happen to us this year, but it could next year,” said Kincaid. “However, if we only have 92 percent, it is still a very safe thing that we can go to $0.08.”
Kincaid also noted that the district might need to raise the levy again in 2010 if reassessment doesn’t provide enough of an increase.
The proposed budget includes $10,000 in attendance fees (salaries) for board members. Members are allowed to collect up to $100 a month for each meeting they attend.
Also the ambulance contract is budgeted at $440,137, while the budget for 2007 listed the cost so far this year at $325,251.38. The 2008 budget dropped the amount for contingencies from $75,000 to $15,000.
With the levy set at $0.08, the estimated revenue is $370,811. Having the budget set at $488,137 results in $117,326, which must be taken out of the surplus of $202,784. The remaining surplus is then $85,459 or 17 percent of the total budget.
Next year, the district will benefit from new construction, which will add to tax revenue. The revenue from the new construction will need to cover the $117,326 shortfall in order to maintain the operating surplus at the current level. Otherwise, it could mean the levy will need to be increased.
After the budget and levy discussion, the public was invited to make comments about the proposals.
One of the questions Deb Hammond asked of the board was for all of the emails between board members under the Sunshine Law. According to Hammond, not all of the emails were given to her; some had a response but no initial email.
“You said there were gaps, but there are not,” said Marte Zirschky, SPCAD secretary. “You asked for all of my emails between board members, and you have them.”
Hammond then asked MAST representative, Jason White, “yes or no” did the district have 24-hour service at the lower price before the increase to $440,137?
“I’ll answer your question, but only if I can explain my answer, I will not respond with only yes or no,” said White. “The original cost was arrived at after Riverside left your district in 2003. Prior to that, you were assured to get ambulance service 24 hours; the difference now is the automatic back fill to cover if the ambulance is on a call. Before we weren’t under an obligation to provide coverage.”
Hammond renewed her Sunshine request, specifying that she would like all of the emails between board members.
“I have been vilified in front of this board several times,” said Hammond. “There are several other citizens out there who don’t attend and ask me to come instead. I’d like to renew my Sunshine request for all of the emails between board members.”
Kincaid then stopped Hammond, stating that she was over the five minutes allowed to the public.
After this interruption, Zirschky turned to Kincaid and attempted to respond to Hammond’s statements. She told him that she had turned over all of the emails she requested.
Zirschky was stopped by Scott Ritchey who put his hand on her shoulder and quietly told her to stop.
Kincaid then asked for the next person to make a public comment.
“There was never a discussion on service in the district,” said Mike Moratz, of Weatherby Lake. “Unincorporated Platte County was never under-served, it was just a matter of how it was funded. For the additional $200,000 to increase to 24-hours, did anyone ask does it meet the need of the district for the cost?”
“I think that expenditure was due to the $200,000 surplus from the excess levy,” said Moratz. “The surplus was used as a leverage for the district. I think the $0.08 is still excessive and this board is not doing me a favor by reducing from $0.14 to $0.08. I think you should consider going even lower.”
The last speaker to the board was Nancy Pate, who lives near Waldron.
“I appreciate knowing I have ambulance service 24 hours a day. Some things in life are worth paying for.”
The board then voted and approved both the budget as is, and the levy reduction to $0.08.
“I want to thank you all for the work you’ve done,” said Kincaid, speaking to the board.”