Pa. EMS owner withdraws push for local tax, hopes state will act
Meadville Area Ambulance Service has cut costs for this year, and managers are working extra shifts
By Keith Gushard
The Meadville Tribune
WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The push to have some local municipalities approve a dedicated 0.5 mills of property tax to fund emergency medical services (EMS) won't happen in 2023.
Meadville Area Ambulance Service (MAAS) plans to send out a letter to the municipalities it serves saying it's withdrawing the issue for this year, said Eric Henry, who owns and operates the ambulance firm.
There are 22 are municipalities MAAS serves in Crawford County and two in Mercer County, but none have the EMS tax. MAAS is the primary provider of emergency medical transportation services in central Crawford County and portions of Mercer County.
The funding of emergency medical services has become a statewide problem. Pennsylvania law allows local municipalities to institute a property tax of up to 0.5 mills dedicated to EMS.
Last fall, Henry, who also serves as chairman of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, was asking the 24 individual municipalities MAAS serves to add 0.5 mills of property tax to their respective local municipal tax rate.
In mid-December, Henry said two municipalities voted to provide financial support to MAAS, but not with a tax. Agreements were being sought by MAAS with another 15 municipalities.
At 0.5 mills of municipal real estate tax, a property with an assessed value of $26,000 would see its tax bill increase by $13 a year. The assessed value of $26,000 is Crawford County's median assessment for homes with the homestead exemption.
However, MAAS was backing away from the EMS tax issue for now, Henry confirmed Wednesday.
"I don't think it's appropriate to do when we don't have all municipalities participating," he said.
MAAS is making financial adjustments for the year.
"We've made significant cuts in expenditures for 2023, adjusted staffing and held off capital expenditures," Henry said, noting that he and other management are working extra shifts.
MAAS continues to operate with three ambulances during the day and two in the evening.
A solution to adequately finance emergency medical services may need to come via Pennsylvania's General Assembly, according to Henry, who said he's been in contact with area state legislators.
"They know what they need to do, but I have little faith in them," Henry said of the Legislature. "This problem is not going to go away."
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