No agreement reached on EMS issue

Talks concerning double-taxation stall between county, Jeff Twp.

By Jennifer Woods -

The double-taxation on Jefferson Township residents continues as officials have not yet reached any agreements.

Last year’s May 8 election included two Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levies that were passed by the voters. One levy secured funding for the Fayette County Ambulance and EMS at 1.3 mills for three years. The other levy was for Jefferson Township Ambulance and EMS service at 5 mills.

The following numbers were supplied via email by Fayette County Auditor Brenda Mossbarger—“On a $100,000 property, all county residents would pay an estimate of $45.50 based on the 1.3 mill county-wide EMS levy. On a $100,000 property, a Jefferson Township resident would pay an estimate of $175.00 based on the 5 mill Jefferson Township EMS levy.”

Due to current circumstances, property owners who live in Jefferson Township have been and will continue to be double-taxed for both EMS levies. Mossbarger explained, “Therefore on a $100,000 property in Jefferson Township, a resident would pay an estimate of $220.50 based on the total of 6.3 mills (1.3 mills –Fayette County EMS Levy and 5.0 mills- Jefferson Township EMS Levy).”

According to the Fayette County Auditor’s Office, those figures translate in different ways as people do get different credits and reductions. Giving exact figures isn’t possible, but those interested can go to the auditor’s website to look up property tax, valuation and other information:

Funding was lost for EMS due to changes in the law from the Ohio General Assembly. In order to keep EMS running, the Fayette County Commissioners used money from the county’ general funds and asked for help from every township in Fayette County to help with funds to contract for services with Fayette County Memorial Hospital.

According to the commissioners, the townships were asked to pay $10 per person—$10 per capita. Approximately $13,740 was Jefferson Township’s share.

There are two public records available that may be useful in understanding the situation.

The first record is Resolution #2017-07 from the Jefferson Township Board of Trustees that was resolved on Sept. 18 of 2017. The resolution agreed to pay $13,740 to the commissioners for EMS in 2018 contingent upon Jefferson being exempt from future county-wide EMS levies—as long as Jefferson Township passed its own EMS levy.

The second record was the response from the Fayette County Commissioners to Jefferson Township regarding that resolution. The response to the resolution is dated for Oct. 4 of 2017.

The response states, “Based upon the financial realities of the situation which we have discussed with you and the other township trustees in the county, and upon advice from the Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney and our outside bond counsel, we cannot accept your conditional agreement to pay the township’s contribution contingent upon ‘a resolution by the Fayette County Commissioners deeming the Jefferson Township EXEMPT from any levy/ levies that the County of Fayette shall establish for EMS Services providing a Jefferson Township levy passes favorably.’”

As noted earlier in this article—both issues still went to ballot and both were passed by voters. The following documents have been shared between the two parties this year.

The Jefferson Township Board of Trustees sent a proposal in March to the commissioners that requested taxes collected from Jefferson Township residents for the county-wide EMS levy to be returned to the township.

As the county-wide levy was based off information for the entire county, including Jefferson, the commissioners explained they were concerned the loss of funding would cause insufficient revenue to continue providing EMS services to the rest of the county. In other words—returning funds to Jefferson Township could cause the rest of the county to be without EMS services.

The commissioners sent the trustees a counter-proposal on May 6 that involved requesting “all county residents to renew the current county levy prior to the end of the current levy term.”

In summary, the counterproposal explained that as long as this new levy were to pass—there would be a contract formed so Jefferson Township could provide their own EMS services. Although Jefferson residents would still pay into the tax, because it would be county-wide, the portion of tax money from Jefferson would go back to Jefferson Township toward its EMS.

However, Jefferson Township would have to undergo all of the appropriate actions to ensure its own EMS levy is decreased by the amount being returned from the county-wide levy—this way Jefferson Township residents would no longer be double-taxed even though the money is going into two separate levies.

When asked why there would need to be a vote prior to contracting with Jefferson Township, county commissioner Tony Anderson explained, “We would be providing service by contracting with Jeff Township. That was not the representation we made to the public when we asked them for the 1.3 mill three-year levy. This would be a change in operations.”

County commissioner Dan Dean said, ”The monies that we asked for originally were to contract for the services with the hospital, and the equipment was very old and beyond life, so we were going to update the equipment each of the years that the money comes in. For instance, in June when we have the second collection, we’ll know how much is left over between the contract and that—the hospital is prepared to order another ambulance at that point to replace one of the older ambulances. Some of the ambulances were 10 to 15 years old.”

On Tuesday of last week, the Jefferson Township Trustees sent a response to the commissioners’ counter-proposal through their attorneys—Brosius, Johnson & Griggs, LLC—that rejected the counterproposal “as submitted.”

The response stated, “While the [commissioners’ counter] Proposal essentially mirrors the Township’s proposal submitted to the County Commissioners on March 4, 2019, it unfortunately does not provide immediate relief to Township residents. As the Board understands, the proposal would not provide any relief to Township tax payers unless and until the County’s current EMS levy is renewed. That renewal, more than likely, will not occur for several years.”

The response from the Jefferson trustees’ attorneys ended with, “If the County is unwilling to provide immediate relief, the Board has already authorized our office to commence litigation if necessary.”

According to the Fayette County Board of Elections, the current county-wide EMS levy is to be paid into for 2019, 2020 and 2021. It would be up for renewal in November of 2020 or during any election in 2021.

The commissioners sent a response back to the Jefferson Township attorneys at Brosius, Johnson & Griggs on May 14. The commissioners’ response states, “the county’s proposal responds directly to the proposal made by the Board of Trustees. But for economic reasons, which the county has fully explained, it cannot ‘commence immediately’ as your clients have demanded. It is disappointing and beyond disingenuous that the township cannot appreciate the county commissioners responsibility to the entire county.”

The mentioned documents are public records that are available by calling or emailing the Fayette County Commissioners’ office with a detailed explanation of what documents are being requested. There will be an appropriate fee for documents that need to be printed, but no cost to have the requested documents emailed.

There have been no recent meetings nor any future meetings planned between the commissioners and the trustees regarding the EMS situation. Although the Jefferson Township Trustees were on the commissioners’ meeting agenda Monday, May 6, the trustees did not attend. The commissioners explained there was a miscommunication involving the date and time.

When Jefferson Township Trustee Ryan Yenger was asked about the meeting and any possible future meetings, he said, “I don’t believe that we need to have a meeting with them. I think it was under advisement of our attorney that any meeting at this point would be premature, because we just don’t agree to their proposal. We offered for them to come to our township meeting, and they declined.”

When the commissioners were asked about their declined invitation to the township meeting, Dean said, “For us to go in a group to a meeting, we would have to continue our meeting at the same time. We’d have to advertise that we’re going to be there, and also take our recording equipment and our secretary and our clerk. One of us can go, but if we have more than one of us, it makes it an official public meeting.”

Anderson and Dean continued their explanations by saying that if only one of the commissioners were to attend the meeting, there would be no proper communication between them and no decisions could be made.

Follow the Record Herald for future updates on this topic.

Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-463-1225. Woods | Record Herald photo Woods | Record Herald photo
Talks concerning double-taxation stall between county, Jeff Twp.

By Jennifer Woods