In the upcoming primary election, Jackson County citizens will have the opportunity to cast a vote regarding the ambulance levy.

This election will be like no other in history. Every registered voters will be receiving a card to mail back to the Jackson County clerk requesting an absentee ballot.

The primary election, originally scheduled for May 12, has now been postponed to June 9.

Troy Bain, Emergency and Medical Services (EMS) Director, stresses the importance of the levy’s passage.

“Now more than ever, this county needs an excellent ambulance service,” he said. “Our people are some of those you hear of being on the front line in the COVID-19 fight. That’s true but we’re on the front line all the time.”

The levy, which has been in place for over 25 years, makes up 50 percent of the EMS budget. The 24-hour service is staffed by 34 full-time emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, along with 10 to 12 part-time employees.

“Each of our EMTs and paramedics is nationally and state certified,” Bain said. “Every single one of them receives that education.”

Bain said Jackson County is unlike many other departments in the state.

“While we do have turnover,” he said, “most of our people have at least 10 years of experience on the job. They work 12-hour shifts, from seven to seven. It’s a very physical job as well.”

Being able to offer a competitive wage is a benefit of the ambulance levy.

“We compete with other counties for workers,” Bain explained. “And the levy lets us do that with success. Most of our folks are county residents. That’s why I came back in 2018. I wanted to help my community. That’s what all our people want to do as well. In fact, many of them serve as volunteer firefighters in their time off.”

One of the most important aspects of the four-year levy is a zero-balance billing for emergency ambulance service calls for any Jackson County resident. Emergency calls are cost free beyond the portion paid by the individual’s insurance or Medicare. Non-emergency ambulance calls are addressed by the standard billing process.

“Any remainder for emergency medical calls that are not covered via insurance is forgiven thanks to the ambulance levy,” Bain said. “That is zero-balance billing.”

Bain stresses that the levy rate remains the same as in past years.

“The rate will not be going up,” he said. “It will be the same as in the past based on assessed property values.”

The rate varies for the different class of taxable property, ranging from $4.69 per $10,000 of assessed valuation for Class I to $18.76 cents for every $10,000 of assessed valuation for Class IV. The ballot will list all the assessments. A sample ballot will be published in the newspaper in mid-April. The levy generates approximately $2,064,705 annually.

Emergency services operate under the Jackson County Commission. With the passage of past levies, three stations throughout the county at Kenna, Ravenswood, and Ripley have been established.

“They are well-equipped and well-staffed,” Bain said. “But continual updates are needed, equipment must be replaced or upgraded, sometimes even new ambulances are needed. The levy is vital in providing all of these.”

Ultimately it is the citizens of Jackson County who benefit from the levy says Bain.

“Every call we get has a human story with it,” he said. “We have to often think outside the box and be prepared for anything. We strive to provide excellence in emergency medical services to everyone in the county. Without the continued support of the levy, this wouldn’t be possible.”

For information about the levy, contact the EMS department at 304-373-2216.

Ambulance levy focal points

Levy provides:

• Life-saving medical supplies

• Replacement of outdated equipment

• Upgrades in technology and cardiac monitors

• General utility bills at three EMS stations

• Vehicle maintenance

• Salary/medical benefits

• Zero-balance billing for emergency calls

• Fully equipped ambulances

• Automated external defibrillators for three senior citizen centers

• Individual first aid/trauma kits to each law enforcement officer

• Lucas2 system which provides automated CPR

Emergency calls:

• 5,829 in 2019

• 1,157 in 2020 as of March 30

Passage of the levy requires 60 percent of the vote.