Edna City Council approves draft of EMS and fire proposal

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:19 a.m.
Updated Aug. 20, 2013 at 3:20 a.m.

Residents of Edna school district are closer to having fire and ambulance services under the new Emergency Services District.

On Thursday, the Edna City Council approved a draft proposal that pushed the city one step closer to solidifying an agreement with the Emergency Services District to provide fire and emergency medical services for residents of the Edna school district.

The draft stems from a proposal that was presented before a five-member Emergency Services District board July 30. It included a request for $450,000 from the new taxing entity, which is projected to earn $550,000 after its first year.

Edna City Manager Ken Knight said the proposal explains how the city intends to budget for fire and EMS.

They are expecting to generate $270,000 annually for services rendered and another $75,000 to $100,000 for insurance claims to help offset the near $1 million price tag for the city to provide both services.

Other money will be used from the general budget to make up the remaining amount attached to fire and EMS.

The Emergency Services District was established in May, approved by voters in a special election.

It has been a source of contention for many living inside the Edna school district area because some are critical of adding an additional tax for such services when they already pay a city tax and a tax to the Jackson County Hospital District for EMS services.

Many residents of the area, including Jackson County Hospital District CEO Bill Jones, said residents should not be taxed twice for the same services.

But Jones said his concern with city's proposal is not the double taxation but rather that the city may be careless spending more of the taxpayers' money than they need to for emergency services.

"There is no way the city can provide fire and EMS for less than what they can just provide for fire service," said Jones, who also made a proposal at the July 30 meeting encouraging the Emergency Services District's revenues be used to pay for fire services only because the hospital district already taxes for EMS services.

"A fire department costs 'A,' and the fire plus EMS costs 'A' plus 'B.' Their math is fuzzy, and it doesn't add up," Jones said.

Knight said the city depends on certain revenues from both services operating at the same time, and without them, they wouldn't be able to provide fire services alone.

"If the ESD utilizes the Jackson County Hospital District and therefore does not fund the city in the way we requested, and we close our EMS, we will not be receiving the $270,000 revenue from that and would therefore not be able to provide fire services as we have in the past," the city manager said.

Knight also said the City Council intends to reduce the city tax rate by 10 cents, which would cancel out any tax increase generated by the emergency service district.

"That is how much the ESD tax is, so it balances out," the city manager said.

The city's proposal was approved with a 3-2 vote at the Emergency Services District board meeting July 30.

Now that City Council has approved the draft of negotiations with the Emergency Services District, it anticipates having an agreement with the services district by the end of August.



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