By Wally Kennedy
MIAMI, Okla. —
Voters in Ottawa County decided Tuesday to expand outside of Miami the tax base for the local ambulance district to include all of the county.
In Miami, voters were asked whether they wanted the ambulance district to cover all of the county. The vote to expand the district passed 973-127.
Outside of Miami, voters were asked whether they would pay a 3-mill property tax to make the service a countywide operation. The vote to accept the tax passed 739-357.
Voters had to endorse both resolutions for the expansion to take place. Simple majorities were required for passage. They were the only questions on the ballot.
A spokeswoman for the Ottawa County Election Board on Tuesday night said the votes, with all 17 precincts reporting, are considered unofficial until they have been verified. The board is to verify the vote and announce the results at 5 p.m. Friday.
A county resident with a home assessed at $100,000 will see an increase of $38 annually in property taxes, according to a representative of the ambulance district. That tax is already being paid by the residents of Miami.
Residents of the county have paid $200 more for an ambulance call than those who live in the ambulance district, which is the same geographic area as the Miami School District. The expansion of the district means residents of the county will no longer pay the $200 surcharge.
The ambulance district, now in its 34th year, has historically served residents throughout Ottawa County, though county residents have not financially supported the service, which is a joint effort of the Quapaw Tribe Fire/EMS and Integris Miami EMS.
In 2011, the service responded to 3,150 calls. Of those, 61 percent were within the existing ambulance district and 39 percent were outside the district.
Advocates of the expansion said it was needed because of increasing costs associated with day-to-day operations, including fuel, supplies, maintenance and repairs, and because of declining reimbursements from Medicare.
The measures increased the geographic area served by the district by about 55 percent. Expansion of the district will increase the district’s board from five to seven members.
THE AMBULANCE DISTRICT has seven advanced life support ambulances stationed at four sites in the county.