Big River Ambulance District voters will be asked April 7 to approve a 35-cent property tax increase, more than doubling the district’s tax levy.
Revenue from the tax increase would be used to increase staff, improve buildings and update equipment, Chief Gary Prasuhn said.
The tax increase requires a simple majority vote to pass.
Currently, the district’s tax levy is 31 cents per $100 assessed valuation. With the increase, the tax levy would be 66 cents per $100 assessed valuation, Prasuhn said.
He said the proposed tax increase would bring in about $1 million a year.
If approved, the additional revenue would allow the district to have more full-time staff, which, in turn, would enable the district to run ambulances out of all three of its houses around the clock, he said.
Because of staffing shortages, there have been 15 times since May when the district did not operate out of its house at 6969 Wild Cherry Drive in House Springs, only running trucks out of its other two houses, the ones at 6321 Lorens Lane in Cedar Hill and at 4795 Tishomingo Road in Hillsboro, Prasuhn said.
“Some of it (discontinuing operation from the House Springs house) has only been for 12 hours, some has been 24 (hours),” he said. “It’s been a total of 232 hours.”
The district currently has 23 part-time employees and 15 full-time employees, Prasuhn said.
He said he would like to have six or seven more full-time employees, which would allow the district to staff all three houses at all times. He also said the district could promote some of its current part-timers to full time in order to increase its full-time staff.
Prasuhn said the district needs the tax increase because over the past 10 years, revenue has not kept up with expenditures. He said revenue has increased by 14 percent during the last decade, but expenditures have increased by 30 percent.
Revenue in 2010 was $2,005,773 and in 2019, it was $2,280,142. In 2010, expenditures totaled $1,866,974 and in 2019, it was $2,521,973, Prasuhn reported.
“We cover a large area and to keep that service up, we’re going to need to increase revenue,” he said. “The last property tax increase we got was in 1987 and that was 10 cents.”
In 2007, district voters approved a 1/2-cent sales tax, but it hasn’t provided the additional revenue district officials had hoped for, Prasuhn said.
“It was supposed to grow, and then the economy went down and things stopped developing,” he said. “We lost our Walmart to High Ridge. So, we lost the revenue stream coming from Walmart.”
If the tax increase does not pass, cuts will need to be made, Prasuhn said.
The “district will survive,” but service will decrease, he said.
“You’ll see that house (in House Springs) getting closed down more often,” Prasuhn said. “Also we’ll be operating with equipment that’s maybe not up to date. We won’t be able to keep up with the technology and advancements in this field.”
Big River Ambulance covers 125 square miles.