The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

County Board Discusses Ideas For Funding Ambulance Service

Joy Swearingen, Quill correspondent

The Hancock County board approved the budget for the fiscal year beginning Dec. 1, and ending Nov. 30, 2023. During their regular meeting Nov. 22, the board approved a balanced budget with estimated income and expenses of $5,012,566 for FY23. This compares to the budget of around $4.3 million for FY 22.

“Revenue has been up for the county this year, so we have budgeted more,” said Finance Committee chairman, Wayne Bollin.

For example, all employees were granted a $1,000 hazard pay stipend to alleviate cost of living increases of the past year. Funds for this stipend do not come from the county general fund, but from American Rescue Payment Act payments.

“As a small county, ARPA recipients have more discretion in how that money is used,” Bollin said. This stipend is in addition to the 3 percent wage increase in the new budget for county employees, that comes from the general fund.

The 2022 levies for property tax were approved for the county general fund and for the county ambulance fund.

These levies request a dollar amount based on needs of the next year’s budget. The actual amount received is the voter-approved tax rate, applied to the assessed value (EAV) of property in the county. If the levies are less than the amount the legal tax rate will generate, the county will get only the levy amount and not the full amount possible.

The levy for the county general fund is $4,855,459, which is 3.7 percent more than last year, according to Bollin. The EAV is estimated to have increased 4 percent. The levy amount for the past two years was level.

The ambulance levy is made separately, since the northern part of the county is not part of the county ambulance service. The levy this year is $265,000, which is an increase of about 25 percent over last year’s levy of $210,000.

“In the past we had not been levying the maximum amount allowable of the 10 cent ambulance tax rate,” said Bollin.

Ambulance finances

In the report from the Health and Miscellaneous Committee, it was noted that Nov. 30 was the due date for repayment of the anticipation warrants for the ambulance fund taken earlier this year.

The committee approved applying for a line of credit from the county’s general fund for the ambulance service to repay those warrants. This was approved for six months for up to $200,000, specified for payroll and operating expenses.

Following discussion on the ambulance fund’s situation and how to raise revenue, the board approved placing a property tax referendum on the ballot for the April 2023 election. The county will seek to increase the allowable ambulance tax rate from 10 cents to 25 cent per $100 of assessed value.

At a special meeting Nov. 2, the board voted to move forward with a plan to operate the county ambulance locally and hire a director. Hancock County EMS has been overseen by the Adams County EMS leadership team for the past nine months. At the Nov. 22 meeting, the board approved creating a five-member Ambulance Advisory Board.

The board agreed to sell the ambulance building and barn to cover the shortfall in ambulance funds. Sealed bids on the two buildings will be sought, with the stipulation that buildings be leased back to the county for up to five years at a price to be determined by the board.

Other business

Two bids were received for the conflict of interest public defender position. The board approved the low bid from Rasmussen/Dittmer Law Firm for $65,000 for FY23.

The board agreed to place the $11,762.92 federal opioid settlement in the county drug court fund for rehabilitation expenses.

They approved a resolution to create a capital improvement fund for election equipment. According to County Clerk Holly Wilde-Tillman, the current equipment is over 15 years old. Support and repairs on the equipment are hard to get. This fund would receive $150,000 per year from general funds, before the budget is balanced, so that equipment estimated at $400,000 could be purchased in 2025.

At the Nov. 2 special meeting, the board heard from Danielle Anderson from Navigator CO2, explaining the proposed pipeline that could go through the county. Joseph Murphy addressed the board by phone representing counties that oppose the pipeline. The county board agreed to become part of the litigation opposing the pipeline.

In other business, the board: