Jones Co. voters support new EMS tax levy

By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Voters in Jones County overwhelmingly support Public Measure A on the Nov. 8 ballot to impose a property tax levy to support the future of EMS services in Jones County.

   The measure needed a super majority of 60 percent in favor to pass. The final count was 70.79 percent (5,553 votes) in favor versus 29.21 percent (2,291 votes) opposed.

   The 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value will be applied to the September 2023 property tax payments.

   “That’s the first time the tax will be collected,” shared County Auditor Whitney Hein.

   She said the Jones County Supervisors will have to include the new levy rate with their Fiscal Year 2024 county budget.

   The Jones County EMS Advisory Council has been working on educating the public/voters and promoting the past 11 months or so.

   “I hadn’t really heard a lot of negativity brought up about it,” said Sheila Frink, Anamosa Ambulance director and member of the Advisory Council. “I had people ask more questions than anything.”

   Britt Smith, Monticello police chief and ambulance administrator, said he was positive going into Election Day.

   “I felt good about the numbers going into it,” he said. “I was confident the voters understood the importance of this and what it means.”

   All day Tuesday, Election Day, Frink admitted she had butterflies in her stomach not knowing how the vote would pan out.

   Seeing the support for the EMS levy, Frink was excited.

   “I’m grateful to those who expressed their right to vote and got out and voted for the positive for us,” she thanked. “We’re grateful for the 71 percent.”

   It’s hard to say why some were opposed. Frink figures it’s either lack of knowledge about the levy or they simply did not want their property taxes raised.

   “I honestly tried not to think about what we would do if this didn’t pass,” Frink admitted.

   “I was confident the residents of Jones County would support this,” Smith said. “You have a certain amount of doubt and anxiety, but it felt good knowing the work we did to educate the public, and that the residents understand the importance of EMS.”

   The Advisory Council spent time marketing the levy and talking to people all over the county at various community events such as parades and the fair.

   “People honestly didn’t know EMS wasn’t essential,” Frink said.

   There are nine EMS services in Jones County. The Advisory Council estimates that roughly $430,000 will be generated in the first year from this levy.

   The work of the Advisory Council isn’t over, though.

   “We’ll meet to determine how the money is divided,” explained Frink.

   The revenue from the property tax will go into a trust fund managed by the Jones County Supervisors. There will be a procedure in place as to how the funds are dispersed among the services.

   Frink said it’d be ideal to utilize something similar to the fire service formula, but that method is yet to be determined.

   “We’ll have to get some policies written,” she said.

   Smith said the Advisory Council and the county will also need to figure out how they want funding requests submitted, whether invoices or receipts, for example.

   “People are going to want to see evidence as to how the money is used and how it’s supporting EMS,” said Smith.

   The EMS levy remains in effect for 15 years. Smith said during that timeframe, there might be the opportunity to provide feedback to the state legislature how to how things are working and not working.

   Frink has been with EMS for 30 years as a paramedic with the Martelle and Anamosa ambulance services. She’s been with the Anamosa director for the last 24 years.

   In the mid-1990s, Jones Regional Medical Center (JRMC) stepped up and took over management of the Anamosa service.

   “I’m thankful UnityPoint Health and JRMC supports us,” she said. “How long could we maintain a deficit to provide this service?”

   In a statement from Eric Briesemeister, CEO of JRMC, he expressed his thanks to the voters as well.

   “The passing of the EMS levy vote is a huge win for the citizens and EMS providers of Jones County. So many great people were involved and need to be recognized for their efforts.”

   He thanked Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature for making the vote possible, as well as the board of supervisors, county auditor, and the Advisory Council.

   “Most importantly, thank you to all of the EMS horoes who work every day to ensure the health of everyone in Jones County,” continued Briesemeister. “Your selfless service is a shining example for all of us and this vote was for you.”

   Eight counties, including Jones, in Iowa had an EMS tax levy on their Nov. 8 ballots up for vote. The levy ranged from 25 to 75 cents. (75 cents is the maximum allowed by the state.) In three of the counties, the vote failed to pass.

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