Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

March 7, 2014

EMS tax needed in Barren County

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — It is with little enthusiasm that we endorse an additional tax on Barren County residents. But in regard to a taxing district that would fund the county’s ambulance service, we want to be clear – our lack of glee does not diminish our steadfast belief that it is the right thing to do.

Taxation has been a source of discontent essentially since the birth of organized civilizations. And often for good reason – at all levels of government, taxes fund a bewildering array of endeavors, some of which stretch the definitions of necessity and good sense to the snapping point. So, as a society, we are less than eager to hand over substantial chunks of our income in order to pay for – what, exactly? It can be hard to tell. Sometimes, we probably don’t want to know.

In this case, however, the need is clear.

The occasional waste of our tax dollars shouldn’t cloud our perception of what taxation is supposed to be: Individuals contributing financially toward a community’s common good. And a community’s common good begins with a commitment to protecting its residents’ health and safety.

We are disheartened that since mid-2013, sometimes as many as 12 ambulance calls a month have gone unanswered or been delayed due to overstretched staffing in the Barren-Metcalfe Emergency Medical Service. We are saddened that sick and injured people in our county might be forced to wait hours to be transported by ambulance to another hospital for appropriate treatment. We would rather not see our service turned over to private or nonlocal oversight, so we are disappointed that Barren County hasn’t joined our neighbors in Adair, Edmonson, Butler, Allen, Green, Hart, Metcalfe, Monroe and Simpson counties in recognizing the value in a taxing district that will help our ambulance service remain adequately staffed and locally operated. (In Warren County, Emergency Medical Services is a department within Bowling Green-based Commonwealth Health Corp., the parent company of The Medical Center.)

Barren County Judge-Executive Davie Greer told the Daily Times this week that tax funding is necessary to protect the county’s ambulance service, but she doesn’t sense fiscal court is close to taking that step. If that’s the case, we understand magistrates’ hesitation. Times are still hard for many families in Barren County. Data released recently by the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics show that the median household income in this county is just above $37,500, which is $5,000 less than the state average. Per capita income is about $4,000 less than the state average, and nearly 20 percent of Barren Countians live in poverty.

When less money is coming to families to begin with, it is tough to ask them to part with even more. We are sensitive to that political conundrum. But there are times when a community is obligated to step up for the good of the whole, and we believe this is one of those moments.

Barren County is fortunate to have a capable, skilled ambulance service that is managed locally. We hope others share our desire not only to preserve the service, but to enhance it, even if the economic timing is not ideal. At any moment, any one of us could require EMS attention, and Barren Countians deserve the peace of mind in knowing help is on the way.

That shouldn’t be too much to ask.