EMS tax up for renewal Oct. 19

Almost half of the annual operating budget for the East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Medical Services comes from a 3.13-mill property tax that is up for renewal Oct. 19.

The tax would be assessed for every taxable property in the parish and would be renewed for 10 years, beginning in 2015, according to the public notice.

The revenue generated from the tax is expected to eclipse $11 million per year, the notice said.

EMS spokesman Mike Chustz said the money would be used to fund basic operations, including ambulance purchase, maintenance and repair as well as paying employees’ salaries.

“It’s basically used for anything we have to spend revenue on,” Chustz said.

The tax was first passed in 1984 and has been easily renewed every time it has been on the ballot, Chustz said, adding that the millage has never increased since it was initially passed.

The last time it was up for renewal, 74 percent of people voted to pass it, Chustz said.

“Voters will benefit from it by EMS keeping at least the same coverage levels now established and possibly more,” Chustz said. “Without the funds, it would be difficult to provide EMS coverage at the level currently provided. (It) would probably mean less ambulances on the street, less staff as well as major cuts to all the events and standby services EMS provides.”

The tax is subject to the Louisiana Homestead Exemption Act, which offers a break on property taxes by exempting the first $75,000 of a home’s value from taxation.

Parish Assessor Brian Wilson said for a property valued at $100,000 with the homestead exemption, the tax would cost the property owner $7.82 a year.

Wilson said for a property valued at $200,000 with the homestead exemption, the tax would cost the property owner $39.12 a year.

Without the exemption, the owner of property valued at $200,000 would have to pay $62.60.

Liz Dent, who co-chairs Taxbusters, said she has no issue with the tax.

“Certainly we don’t like excess taxes, but for public safety, we’ve always stood” with the first-responders, she said.

EMS provides emergency medical services to the entire parish, more than 440,000 residents in a 471-square-mile area.

EMS employs nearly 170 employees and staffs 12 stations throughout the parish.

They responded to 52,869 calls and transported 31,207 patients in 2012, an average of 145 calls and 85 patients per 24-hour period.