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Posted 2/07/18 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

After losing $170,000 this past year, the McKenzie County Ambulance Service is facing a troubling financial future. While the county commissioners have so far been willing to help the service when it fails to meet its budget, this is not an option that allows the ambulance service to effectively plan for future growth.
The easiest option that would allow for the McKenzie County Ambulance Service to continue to provide 24/7 coverage to the majority of the residents in the county is for them to seek a permanent funding solution that will help them balance their budget when its income doesn’t meet its annual expenses. And that solution would be the creation of a taxing district, in which property owners who live within the ambulance service’s service area would be assessed a county mill levy.
As outlined in this week’s front page story in the McKenzie County Farmer, creating that taxing district is going to require members of the ambulance service, as well as those that are supporting the concept, to gather 800 signatures in order for the measure to appear on the June 12 election ballot. And considering that they have until April 9 to gather those signatures, that could be a daunting task.
But it is a task that needs to be accomplished.
Everyone values all of the emergency responders who often drop everything that they are doing in order to come to our assistance whenever we call. When there is a motor vehicle accident, the ambulance crews respond. As do the volunteer firemen and law enforcement. The same thing happens when there is a fire.
But what we often don’t realize, especially when it comes to the ambulance service, is how often they aren’t fully compensated for their calls.
What most people don’t realize is that in most instances, Medicare and insurance companies don’t reimburse the ambulance service the full cost of transporting a patient to the McKenzie County Hospital or to other hospitals. And when they respond to a false call, the ambulance service has to eat the charges that they normally would have been able to bill a patient for.
But in addition, the ambulance service has seen other sources of income, such as state grants and funds that the city of Watford City provided as a part of its building permit fees dry up.
In short, at a time when the ambulance service is responding to more and more calls, it simply can’t meet its budget.
And that is why, in my opinion, the creation of a taxing district makes sense.
While most people don’t like to pay more property taxes, this is one area that we should all want to support. We want to know that when we have an emergency, an ambulance will arrive with highly trained responders in vehicles that are equipped to professionally care for us while being transported to a hospital.
If you are asked to sign a petition, which would allow the McKenzie County Ambulance Service to create a taxing district, please sign it. Your signature is the first step that needs to happen if the measure is going to appear on the June 12 ballot.