Raytown EMS transfer would require levy, voter approval

RAYTOWN, Mo. -- Transferring emergency management services from the city to the fire department would require a levy and voter approval, according to Raytown officials.

A city spokesman and the fire chief fielded questions about the potential transfer during a news conference Tuesday, saying the change would reduce response times by 30 percent and add another ambulance to the coverage area. 

"Savings is part of it, but it's not the total thing," Assistant City Administrator Damon Hodges said. 

According to Hodges, discussions began back in May, but current EMS employees only found out about the plan last week.

"We didn't want to...cause no issue beforehand until we got to a point to where we'd be able to actually move forward," Hodges explained.

Raytown budgets $1.5 million for EMS, but that price tag is offset by revenue from transports. To pay for EMS, the Raytown Fire Protection District estimates they'll need to raise $350,000-450,000.

An early proposal involves a 15 to 19-cent levy per $100 of assessed valuation. For example, a house worth $100,000 would pay up to $38 a year. A house worth $50,000 could pay up to $19 a year.

"Any penny that you levy toward the fire district can only go the fire district. We're not part of the city, so we're not subject to having money pulled from here or there to other services," Raytown Fire Protection District Chief Matt Mace said of the levy.

Both the board of directors for the fire district and city aldermen would have to approve the transfer of EMS. Then the transfer and levy could be placed on the ballot as early as April 2019.

"The goal here is to have an interim period where the city funds it at the current level, as a stipend to us for doing so. It mainly gives us time to demonstrate to everyone what we can do, to demonstrate to the public we can offer the same service or better service," Mace said. 

Whether or not voters would approve the levy remains unclear. Just last month, residents shut down three tax proposals aimed at fixing the revenue problem in the city. Those measures came after $2.7 million was cut from the police budget last year. 

At Tuesday night's meeting, EMS director Doug Jonesi disagreed with data presented by city and fire officials about his budget and he was never given a chance to evaluate the proposal.

But former EMS director Matt Cushman endorsed the proposal.

The meeting was attended by many EMS employees.

International Association of Firefighters Local 1730 President Taylor Seedorff criticized the proposal's lack of transparency, citing that the union had been left out of negotiations.

Editor's note: An early version of this story miscalculated the tax increase based on market value of a home.

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