recommends tax increase
The Frederick Board of County Commissioners will meet
today to consider creating a fire tax district in the only area left in
Frederick County without one.
The Emmitsburg area, including a small pocket in
Sabillasville, does not currently charge residents a fire tax to pay for
emergency personnel, but given recent service failures by Emmitsburg Ambulance
Company, it may be necessary to create one.
Service failure rates at the company are averaging
close to 33 percent, prompting the company to ask for emergency help from
The county requires that emergency vehicles must leave
the company within eight minutes of a call for help, and that has not happened
at least 33 percent of the time during the first seven months of this year.
At the hearing Monday, it was announced that three
calls that day alone went unanswered. Adding paid staff to the now
all-volunteer ambulance company would increase town taxes.
Emmitsburg town commissioners held an emergency public
meeting Monday to hear input from residents about the problem.
At the hearing, the town's board heard from residents
and members of the ambulance company and the Vigilant Hose Volunteer Fire
The board then voted to recommend that county
commissioners fund a part-time staffing fix that, if ultimately approved by the
county, will lead to an increase in property taxes of 6.5 cents per $100 of
assessed value for Emmitsburg area property owners.
For a $200,000 house, that would increase the owner's
tax bill by about $130 per year, or nearly $11 per month.
Some residents adamantly argued that the town should
recommend two full-time paid staff members for the company given the serious
service problems and staffing issues. Only six active volunteers answer calls
right now, as well as three EMTs.
Two full-time staff members would have increased taxes
for the community by 13.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value, or cost
about $270 more per year for a $200,000 house.
Describing property taxes as the most unfair to poor
and elderly home owners on limited incomes, Emmitsburg board President Bill
O'Neil said he believed the best course of action was to recommend the lower
rate increase and then re-assess the situation periodically to determine if
another increase in staff is needed.
The commissioners eventually agreed to forward a
recommendation to the county commissioners asking the county to fund two
part-time staff to support the ailing ambulance company.
County commissioners have scheduled a public meeting on
the matter, beginning at 9 a.m. today.
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