Ambulance levy likely going to vote

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Park County-wide ambulance mill levy will likely be placed on the ballot in November.

Now, the city of Livingston will draft language for the levy, which will be approved by Aug. 13. The joint city-county levy will ask for the same amount of money — $400,000 — it requested in the ambulance portion of the emergency services mill levy that failed at the ballot box in June. That $1.5 million levy included funds for all emergency services, while this levy will single out the ambulance services across the county.

Livingston’s ambulance service is running out of money, City Manager Michael Kardoes said.

“We’re good through the end of the year, but that’s about it,” Kardoes said during the regularly scheduled County Commission meeting Tuesday morning.

At the end of the year, Kardoes said there will be between $30,000 and $60,000 in reserves, and the ambulance service is running a $250,000 to $300,000 deficit.

Kardoes said if the county did not approve the mill levy, the city would have to go forward with a city-only mill levy.

“If that’s the route, expect reduced county services,” Kardoes said.

He said those could include a reduced service area and a moratorium on transfers between hospitals for county residents.

Some of the levy would be used for ambulance services in other parts of the county, including Gardiner and Paradise Valley, Kardoes said.

Commission Chairman Steve Caldwell said he thinks it’s up to voters to decide what they want to fund.

“I haven’t changed my thinking much,” Caldwell said. “It’s an exercise in public self-determination to look at the choice. I’m certainly in favor of putting it on the ballot to see what happens and see what people think.”

Commissioner Bill Berg said he knows it’s a difficult issue, with many people being dissatisfied with the coverage and many people thinking it needs to be expanded.

“It’s a tough issue,” Berg said. “But people dial 911 and expect something to happen, and that takes funding.”

Kardoes said a separate mill levy for dispatch infrastructure should be discussed in the future, though that issue isn’t as pressing as the ambulance service.