Sales Tax Proposed to Solve EMS Funding Saga

BENTON COUNTY, AR-- The Benton County quorum court met on Tuesday to talk about a permanent solution for EMS service in rural areas of the county.

District 5 Justice of the Peace, Kevin Harrison said, “You directly control how much you contribute by how much you spend.”

After cutting cash from the Benton County road department to fund EMS service for the rest of 2014, the county is still searching for a permanent fix.

“We need a long term funding solution so we've talked about a one-eighth cent sales tax,” Harrison said.

Kevin Harrison is backing the proposed tax. “You and your family have a wreck out in the rural part of Benton County and you call 911, you expect an ambulance. Would you mind paying a little more on your sales tax in order to assure that?”

Voters struck down an 85-dollar annual household fee in February. Harrison says with this tax, folks will end up paying about 20 dollars per year. That money would fund service from cities.

Harrison said, “It would generate a little over four million dollars per year to go toward ems service. We don't have the split worked out yet, but we are proposing that money would be distributed to cities and could be used only on emergency services.”

Harrison said until the problem is resolved it's going to affect growth. “People that want to move here are going to have to stop and think about it… Would they rather live in Washington County where they are covered?”

For now, the county sits at a standstill and the future of EMS service is ultimately up to voters.

“We're not talking about a discretionary service. This is something that we have to do,” Harrison said.

Kevin Harrison said he would like to see the proposed tax on the November general election ballot, as opposed to having a special election.

He said, the county will need to decide whether or not to put it on the November ballot by July.

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