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On the Ballot: Metro West to seek tax increase via Proposition V

By: Jim Erickson

An ambulance rolls out of the station house in a video produced by Metro West.

Citing the huge increase in the number of emergency medical service calls to which it now responds, the Metro West Fire Protection District will seek an increase in the real estate and personal property tax rate it levies for its ambulance fund.

The issue, known as Proposition V, will be on the Nov. 7 election ballot. A simple majority of those voting is needed for approval.

According to Tim Flora, chairman of the Metro West Board of Directors, the district last asked for an increase in its ambulance fund 31 years ago. During that period, emergency calls have more than tripled from 2,200 annually in 1986 to 7,600 in 2016. Some 80 percent of those involve advanced life support operations funded by the ambulance tax levy.

If approved, the ambulance fund tax levy will increase 17 cents per $100 assessed valuation on both real estate and personal property in the district. Metro West Fire Chief Mike Krause said for a resident with a $250,000 home, the increase equates to an extra $7 monthly.

Although Metro West has a voter-approved maximum ambulance fund tax levy of 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation, the levy for raising revenue for those operations in 2018 has declined to 24.5 cents due to increases in property valuation throughout the district. Under the Hancock Amendment, a voter-approved tax  levy cannot rise above the level approved at the time of its adoption. As property valuations increase, the tax levy is reduced to yield the same amount as would have been received on the prior base. If voters approve the increase, it would add 17 cents to the 2018 rate and would apply to taxes levied late next year to fund operations in 2019.

In addition to the ambulance fund, the district also has tax levies for its general fund, retirement fund and for debt service. The total for all funds is 99.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation for taxes levied to pay for 2018 operations.

Metro West serves a 57.5-square-mile area that includes all or portions of Ballwin, Ellisville, Chesterfield, Clarkson Valley, Castlewood, Wildwood, Sherman, Winchester and parts of unincorporated St. Louis County.

Krause said the district’s five-year budget projections anticipate expenditures outpacing revenues and higher deficits in the ambulance fund. With continued residential growth in the district, the chief expects an increasing demand for service.

Since 1986, growth in the area Metro West serves has meant the addition of two more fire stations, bringing its total to five. Personnel numbers also have risen from 48 to 100 during the same period.

Krause said Proposition V derives its name from the vision the district wants to continue to pursue in providing high quality and innovative services to residents.

Included in that vision are enhanced public education efforts and what Krause termed “community paramedicine.” The latter is designed to reduce the use of hospital emergency rooms for primary care and hospital readmissions after patients are discharged following treatment for stroke, cardiac arrest and other medical issues.

Krause also predicted the district will be involved in a broader effort to bring assistance more quickly to those who need it. For example, persons trained in CPR and defibrillator usage can be notified, through a phone app, when someone near them is experiencing a medical emergency.

Applying emergency help, even if it’s for only a minute or two before first responders arrive, can mean the difference between life and death, he noted.

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