Highland County EMS Fee Ordinance Revision Still In The Works
At the April 6th meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors, the Board held a public hearing on a revision of the EMS Fee ordinance, but then voted to table it, to work on the ordinance some more.
County Attorney Melissa Dowd said the proposed changes to the ordinance include it being one landowner, one fee, with the fee being $180 per year. If a trust or an estate is a separate legal entity, it will be assessed as a landowner. Corporations will be assessed the fee, unless it’s an S Corporation, which is one stockholder, and that person pays the fee on another tract of land. Partnerships and LLC’s will not be assessed the fee, if they are under a taxpayer number and if that person pays the fee on another tract. Property owned by more than one person will not be assessed the fee, if any of the property owners pays the fee on another tract.
Dowd explained that some public comments were received prior to the meeting about the exemption of businesses from the fee. As a result, the Board decided to make another proposed change to the amended ordinance and begin charging businesses. Business owners will not pay a fee if they are already paying on another parcel. Dowd said this change would pick up some of the LLCs, corporations and partnerships as well as other businesses that are owned by someone who doesn’t live in Highland. Dowd also said comments were received about the current ordinance exempting renters, but she explained that the board decided not to assess renters, because that can’t be enforced since they can move at any time. She said the board didn’t want to put a burden on landlords.
County Administrator Roberta Lambert reported that she had received six comments through her office and seven people spoke during the public hearing at the meeting.
During the public hearing there was a question about the PHI air transport fee. Does the EMS fee pay for that or should individuals continue to pay for their PHI insurance? Supervisor David Blanchard explained that the county’s general fund, not the EMS fee, covers the cost of PHI when it transports patients from Highland or from any adjoining county. It was explained that if a Highland resident needed transport by PHI from anywhere else in the country, there would be a charge, so residents may want to continue their insurance. It was also explained that the EMS fee is to support the pay and benefits of five EMS employees, whose salaries range from $35,000 to $60,000. Over $300,000 has to be raised by the EMS fee to cover the cost. All other EMS staff expenses come from the county general fund.
Following the public hearing, and with the meeting running long, on a motion by Supervisor David Blanchard, the Board voted to table action on the revised ordinance. Blanchard said maybe they can figure out a way of assessing renters and maybe by adding in absentee business owners, the county can bring in more people to pay the fee which will lessen the amount of the fee. The Board will hold more meetings in April for budget preparation and the ordinance must be approved and the fee set by May 1, to meet the deadline of the regular budget schedule.