Eastern 3 townships should receive public safety funds

To the editor:

In 2016 almost $250,000 in Local Option Income Taxes (LOIT) was collected from the eastern third of the county for the express purpose of public safety, which includes ambulance service. But the local governments that provide this service don’t get a dime.

The $1.8 million collected in Public Safety LOIT for unincorporated areas in Hancock County was distributed directly to the county. Based on a per taxpayer average of $53, an estimated $90,000, $71,000 and $68,000 was collected from Jackson, Blue River and Brown township taxpayers, respectively. This is almost a quarter of a million dollars in income tax revenues. Yet the townships do not receive this revenue. The County Council is instead tasked with how to distribute these monies.

Rural townships cannot provide advanced life support services (ALS) because it is cost-prohibitive — primarily because this service requires several full-time paramedics as well as specialty ambulances and medical equipment. As an alternative, Greenfield Fire Territory has been providing access to paramedics for $45,000/year. Every year the trustees have asked the County Council to use Public Safety LOIT to provide this type of access to health care for their rural constituents. Every year it is a fight to get the County Council to pay for this.

The County Council leadership would like us (and perhaps one or two other mostly-rural townships) to instead create a fire territory for the express purpose of having a new taxing entity to collect new taxes in addition to existing taxes to pay for paramedic subscription services.

This trustee insists that the County Council do the right and fiscally conservative thing: use its existing resources for the welfare of those residents of this county without paramedic services. There is no reason why this service should be part of the county’s annual budget as long as the Public Safety LOIT is assessed. It would take less than 20 percent of the quarter-million collected from the three easternmost rural townships to provide critical access to health care.

Katie Lewman, MPH

Trustee

Brown Township, Hancock County