The failure of the Ross Township Board to act Thursday night on the question of how to save the Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service again prolongs the effort to find a workable funding solution.
Discussion at the board meeting revealed a prejudice against the proposed special service area because it is seen as a way to impose a tax without going to referendum for voter approval. There was also a claim the township has not received meaningful financial information from NECAS to make an informed decision and board members expressed a sense they being pressured to act too quickly on the matter.
There were counter claims that all of the information was provided just as it was to the other entities that have already passed resolutions supporting the creation of a special service area – Prairie, Brouilletts Creek, Edgar, Shiloh and Young America townships along with Chrisman, Hume and Metcalf. Ross Township’s failure to act when the others did earlier this year means a special service area cannot be formed in time to receive tax payments in 2020.
Based on current funding, the ambulance service cannot survive through 2020 let alone more than halfway through 2021 when the first tax distribution is made.
Ross Township board members are sincere when say they want to keep the ambulance operating, but the possible loss of the ambulance is naturally concerning to many residents of northern Edgar County.
We disagree with some of the Ross Township positions. The desire to have a referendum for the special service area is an unwarranted and unnecessary delay. Referendums are not required for a special service area and would be advisory only. The earliest a referendum can be placed on the ballot is the March primary and failing that the next opportunity is November, which is much too late because any funding coming to a special service area would be put off until 2022.
There is a public safeguard option in the law for those opposed to the creation of a service area and tax to petition against it.
We also disagree this issue has been put off to the last minute. The NECAS board started earlier this year trying to get a special service area in place after a large public meeting in April revealed the trustees of the Chrisman, Hume and Metcalf fire protection districts did not support extending a fire tax to fund the ambulance.
The Ross Township board may yet find the special service area is the most logical way to go, but if they do not, then the burden is entirely on them to come up with another solution that works as well, is acceptable to the other entities and to do so in a timely manner.