Local Governments Consider Ambulance District to Cover Increased Costs
The Cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre, as well as Hughes and Stanley Counties are hoping to change the way ambulance service is subsidized within the two counties, but they need a vote of the public to do it.
Together, the two cities and the two counties currently have an agreement with American Medical Response (AMR) to provide ambulance services within their jurisdictions. That agreement includes a subsidy from each of the four local governments; the agreement is expiring the end of this year. To continue providing service in the area, AMR is requesting a subsidy increase of $280,000 annually.
“When AMR brought the increase forward, they indicated workforce issues have been driving up costs for years,” said Pierre Public Safety Commissioner Vona Johnson. “They’re struggling to find and retain paramedics, and they have been covering those increased costs for some time.”
AMR’s fee for services next year is $415,000, rather than the current $135,000.
“Under the existing agreement, the local government entities are able to absorb the costs; it’s unlikely all the jurisdictions will be able to continue doing that into the future,” said Comm. Johnson.
To help combat the rising costs and associated budget shortfalls, the group wants to create an ambulance district. The district would allow a special property tax assessment to cover the cost of ambulance services provided within the ambulance district of Hughes and Stanley Counties.
“State law allows the district to collect only enough to cover costs,” said Comm. Johnson. “If you own a $250,000 home, it’ll be less than $60 a year.”
Per state law, a public vote is required to establish an ambulance district and collect a special assessment on its behalf. This week, the Cities of Pierre, Fort Pierre and Blunt, as well as Hughes and Stanley counties are considering resolutions to endorse the idea and take it to the voters in November. Other communities located in Hughes and Stanley Counties may consider the issue at a later date.
“We don’t foresee the cost of business going down anytime soon,” said Comm. Johnson. “Collectively, we think an ambulance district is the best way to ensure ongoing, reliable ambulance service to all of the citizens in Hughes and Stanley Counties.”