To the taxpayers of Las Animas County:
The Trinidad Ambulance District will be seeking a mill levy increase from the voters in November. This is not related to our last ballot initiative in which you allowed us to be exempt from some of the TABOR constraints, otherwise known as de-Brucing. That move allowed us to keep grant funds that we may be awarded and exempts the District from the 5.5 percent maximum tax increase caused by increased property values. As most of us in the County are well aware, property tax revenue has not increased, it has decreased.
The Ambulance District also used to receive some significant revenue from oil and gas; however, we have received no money from oil and gas since 2013. The District also does not receive any money at all from the recent sales tax increase to support “public safety.” Those funds are primarily being used to fund the District Attorney’s Office.
Despite rumors that float around town of the District’s supposed wealth, the fact of the matter is that the Ambulance District has lost 50 percent of its property tax revenue in the past nine years. The District was at almost $2 million in tax revenue in 2010 but is projected to receive about $957,000 for 2019. That’s more than a $1 million decrease, which equates to a 52 percent reduction in the revenue we need to maintain the level of service we currently provide.
When the District was formed, 800 calls per year were projected. Last year, the District responded to almost 2,200 requests for service. The District currently staffs two Advanced Life Support Ambulances on a 24/7 basis. Many times, one of those ambulances is out of town on a transfer from Mt. San Rafael Hospital. Almost 400 times a year, the District takes a patient to Pueblo, Colorado Springs or Denver.
These transports have generated almost 100,000 miles a year on our vehicles. Unfortunately, due to the number of less fortunate people in our County, many of these trips receive only Medicaid reimbursement which results in a loss to the District. Some trips are “private pay,” which means the patient is uninsured and we most likely won’t see any reimbursement at all.
It would be a shame to have to cut back on the level of service we currently provide to the community. Having to drop to basic life support or only having one ambulance on-duty is not something we want to do, but it may become a reality in the future. All of us at the District feel that the lives or our citizens are every bit as important as the lives in the metro areas. That’s why we have gone above and beyond to provide a level of care almost unheard of in rural Colorado.
The Trinidad Ambulance District truly provides state-of-the-art EMS service to this community. In fact, we had representatives from the Colorado University, Rural Immersion Program visit us recently. We received a thank you note from them a couple of days later. They said, “To say we were impressed with your service would be an understatement.” In fact, one of the survey team members was a Denver Paramedic. She joked about moving to Trinidad to work for the District. Yes, we really are that good!
Trinidad Ambulance District has been on the cutting edge of new developments in equipment and research and we have adapted our protocols and adopted new equipment to ensure the best outcomes possible for our patients. Our little District has actually brought new protocols and equipment to Colorado that have then been adopted by the rest of the State! The EMS care here is better than in many metropolitan areas.
Nobody ever wants to raise taxes, but sometimes it’s necessary to maintain the level of service the community has come to expect. We are requesting that our current maximum of 2.907 mils be raised to 6 mils so that we can get back to our previous subsidy levels. We are not asking for any more money than we actually received in 2010.
According to the County Treasurer’s Office, approximately 28,000 tax bills were due by April 2019. That means the average contribution per taxpayer to the District is approximately $34 per year. In order to bring the revenue back to 2010 levels, the contribution would rise to approximately $68 per year.
We have enjoyed great relationships with the members of our community and hope they understand that nothing has gotten less expensive since 2010. The District had a healthy reserve balance in 2010 but that balance has decreased by 25 percent. In other words, we are drawing on our savings to put into checking so our bills can be paid. Obviously, this can’t go on forever.
We ask that you approve our request for a mil levy increase in November to bring the District back to its financial position of almost 10 years ago.
EMS Chief and Executive Director Dan Moynihan
Trinidad Ambulance District Board of Directors Kathy Bueno, Derek Navarette, James Casias, Nick Mattorano and Joseph Martinez