Sunday, July 20, 2003

Kenton officials abandon tax talk

Paramedic service would have benefited

By Stephenie Steitzer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A proposed tax that would generate about $1.7 million to pay for expanded paramedic service in Kenton County will not be on the November ballot.

A special committee of the Kenton County Mayor's Group decided last week that it would not have enough public support for the tax increase of 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Instead, the mayor's group on Saturday recommended that Kenton County Fiscal Court take bids from other paramedic service companies to provide advanced life support until the committee could refine the tax proposal and possibly have it ready for the November 2004 election.

"Right now, if we are going to spend taxpayers' money, we need to go out and find the best service for the dollar that we can find," Fort Mitchell Mayor Tom Holocher said.

TransCare, a non-profit organization owned by St. Elizabeth and St. Luke hospitals, responds to all life-threatening calls - known as advanced life support - in the county. It receives no government aid and relies on subscription drives for funding.

By paying a yearly fee of $12 for an individual or $45 per family, people who require paramedic services are not required to cover the difference if their health insurer refuses to pay the entire cost of service.

The subscription drive brought in less than $100,000 in 2002, and TransCare officials say the paramedic unit lost about $450,000 in Kenton County.

Elsmere Fire Chief Paul Lafontaine said the committee would continue to examine the proposed tax. He said the main issue to work out is whether to allocate some of the tax money to basic life support.

All Kenton County cities have at least one ambulance and volunteers to respond to non-life-threatening calls - known as basic life support.

Some officials in the county want the tax money only to be used for advanced life support. But others, including Lafontaine, say cities are struggling to sustain basic life support because of an increasing number of calls each year.

"The system is broke," Lafontaine said. "It's a lack of volunteers, a lack of money."

He said the committee is trying to decide how the tax money would be divided if it were to go to both basic and advanced life support.

"This is something that should have been addressed five years ago, but we keep putting a Band-Aid on it," he said.


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