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EMS and Firefighters Awaiting Results on Sales Tax Renewal

Posted on Monday, July 10th, 2017

 

Keep Love County Running:  (seated) Sheriff Marty Grisham, Hospital Administrator
Richard Barker, OSU Extension Educator Mike Steele, Love County Senior Volunteer Program
Board member Ron Jacobs; and (standing) OSU Extension Educator Randi
McCann, Love County Commissioner Linda Hyman, and Love County Senior
Volunteer Director Eyvonna Lemons, display the slogan for a campaign to renew
a countywide one-cent sales tax that supports the operations of fire, ambulance,
seniors, OSU Extension, and other county services and offices.

 

 A one-cent county sales tax up for renewal on July 11 has volunteer firefighters, emergency responders, senior citizen advocates, and others campaigning for votes in Love County. 

“We’re reminding everyone how far this penny goes in support of vital services,” said Mike Steele, Extension Educator with Love County’s OSU Extension office.

Early voting takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Love County Courthouse on July 6 and 7. County polling places will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 11.

Voters have renewed the penny support tax every five years since enactment in 1988. Currently it brings in about $90,000 a month, according to Lorry Stilley, County Treasurer. 

Stilley said that amount is split 10 ways, with one-half or $45,000 to the general government fund; one-tenth or $9,000 collectively to volunteer fire departments; and one-twentieth or $4,500 each to Love County EMS, Senior Citizens, OSU Extension, County Clerk, Court Clerk, County Assessor, County Sheriff, and County Treasurer.

For cash-strapped volunteer fire departments, the tax revenue is one of few steady sources of funding. “There are fourteen departments relying on it for gas, tires, or some of their other vehicle or firefighting needs. They are called out a lot. Due to manpower and distance concerns, we page three departments to respond initially on most calls, especially grass fires, said acting County Emergency Manager David Bond.

County Sheriff Marty Grisham was more direct.  “Without the tax, I would have to cut my deputy force in half. I mean that. The sales tax fuels our cars and keeps our office running.  It’s a big deal to all of us. We have to have it to keep what we have.”

At Love County EMS, which is managed by the hospital, the sales tax, in combination with a separate 3-mill ad valorem tax, pays toward day-to-day operations and buys replacement ambulances. 

“We have used this ongoing public support to raise the medical level of our ambulance service from Basic to Advanced Life Support. We also are able to contract for educational programs to train responders, EMTs, and Paramedics for emergency service, and to make the training free for local citizens,” said Richard Barker, hospital administrator.

The Senior Citizens share of the funding is divided three ways: SORTS bus to have public transportation for seniors, the Nutrition Center that provides weekday lunches for seniors, and the Love County Senior Volunteer program to have staff to exist, according to Eyvonna Lemons, program director.

The senior program in turns attracts grants, donations, and community volunteers to engage in a wide range of services. “We are delivering food packages to 150-200 seniors every month, we do the backpack for kids programs that sends nutritious food home on weekends, we run a commodities program that has 200 participants, we put on the only health fair in the county for all ages, and we are constantly doing new programs. We would be hamstringing a lot of our populations without the sales tax that is our base of support,” Lemons said.

Sales tax money recently helped the Nutrition Center gain a measure of independence. “We put in a food pantry so the center can prepare meals onsite. Before that we had to rely on the Ardmore site to cook the meals and transport them to Marietta,” said County Commissioner Linda Hyman.

“The sales tax is the total funding we receive from the county,” said Steele of his office, which brings university-based technical know-how in agriculture, home, and youth development programs, including 4-H. “You have to wonder, considering state budget cuts to OSU Extension, if we would continue to have Extension here if the county were asked to support us from the general fund,” added Extension Educator Randi McCann. 

Office holders contacted in the treasurer, assessor, court clerk, and county clerk’s offices said they use their respective shares of the revenue for office maintenance, supplies, travel, capital expenditures, and, in some cases, salaries or insurance for additional employees to reduce the public’s waiting time.

Cathy Carlile, County Assessor, was an assistant in her office in 1988, the year the support tax was enacted. “The county’s general fund back then was so tight we used to collect pens and pencils from meetings we attended to have some for our office. I wondered if I would continue to have a job. We are now, employee-wise, where the state says we should be to run our office. We have to have the sales tax to keep the doors open,” Carlile said.