Paramedics: a new plan

The Davis County Sheriff’s Office will end its paramedics service Dec. 31, 2022. Cities that have been covered by this service must start their own programs. This will require a property tax increase. Here’s why.

Fire Station #21 — Clinton, Utah

History

The county has been providing paramedics since 1976. Back then, they controlled the ambulances, too. As the county grew from rural to suburban, cities needed these services closer to home to ensure fast response times. In 2002, the county discontinued ambulance services, and cities like Clinton started their own, operated by lower-level EMTs. But the county continued providing the higher-level paramedic EMTs.

Emergency services

What’s the difference between paramedics and lower EMT levels? Paramedics are legally required to have hundreds more hours of education. They also have hundreds more hours of field and clinical training. They are the ones who can do advanced airway techniques and advanced cardiac monitoring. They are legally allowed to administer more life-saving drugs.

When you call 911, the dispatcher categorizes the urgency of your call based on the information you give. An ambulance and EMTs from Clinton are dispatched to all calls, and paramedics from the county are dispatched to join them for more life-threatening situations. (Calls can be quickly upgraded or downgraded as more information is gathered.) I cannot say enough how lucky we are to have these first responders.*

Clinton requires backup from the county’s paramedics about half the time. Here’s the breakdown over the past three years:

The industry standard says if you’re running a good program, then at least 90 percent of the time, paramedics should be arriving on scene in eight minutes or less of being dispatched. Davis County’s growth is making this standard increasingly difficult to meet.

I promise you don’t want to be in a crisis, only to find out your paramedics are coming from Kaysville. Sure, Clinton’s EMTs will be there to rush you to the hospital, but they may not have the legal ability or expertise to administer the cardiac or airway care you need on the way. The county has done an admirable job so far, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that paramedics need to be permanently spread out among all the cities and housed with their own local EMT teams.

Funding

Now here’s where we talk about cost. Below is a list of the taxing entities on your property tax notice. I’ve highlighted the three categories related to the paramedics issue:

The county will be completely eliminating the taxing entity called DAVIS COUNTY PARAMEDIC. So you might think, “Perfect! The paramedic line goes away. We’ll add it onto the CLINTON CITY line instead. Everything will even out, and BOOM, no tax increase.”

I wish. In reality, the taxing line for Clinton will go up much more than the paramedic line goes down, leaving us with an overall tax increase of about $7 a month on a home valued at about $350,000.

Here’s why: The 48 people who service the county as paramedics are the exact same people who patrol as law enforcement deputies for the sheriff’s office. They have been doing double duty all these years. When the paramedics component of their job goes away, they will still have the law enforcement component — the same personnel costs, vehicles, maintenance, etc.

The county budgets $6.5 million a year for its paramedic/patrol deputy program. But the amount coming from that DAVIS COUNTY PARAMEDIC taxing line you see above is only $1.5 million. The rest comes from the regular DAVIS COUNTY line, the general fund. Taxes will not be reduced on that line, because they must be used to continue the patrol deputy part of the program.

The sheriff told me he will finally have enough manpower to properly patrol underserved areas of the county, such as the canyons, where both recreation AND illegal activity have increased in recent years. If he no longer needs all 48 deputies, he will reduce the numbers over time through attrition, meaning he won’t lay anyone off, but he also won’t fill open positions.

We’ve been getting a good deal with this rural model for longer than expected. Now it’s time for us to invest in public safety.

Clinton’s new program

To start our paramedic program and meet industry best practices, Clinton will need funds for:

  • Six full-time and a couple of part-time positions, plus continual training
  • Two paramedic response vehicles, including equipment and maintenance (must be staffed with two licensed paramedics, round the clock)
  • An extra bedroom at the fire department

Some of these are one-time costs, and we can move around some of our normal budget, but the bulk of it requires ongoing funding — hence, the tax increase. We’re going to need at least $700,000 a year.

Mutual aid

Many cities will raise property taxes. Layton and the five South Davis cities already provide their own paramedics. The other entities in Davis County will have to start their own programs:

  • Clinton
  • Farmington
  • Kaysville
  • Fruit Heights
  • South Weber
  • Syracuse
  • North Davis Fire District (West Point, Sunset, Clearfield)

All paramedics programs across the county will operate generally in their own areas, but without concern for borders. If someone has a crisis in West Point and the North Davis Fire paramedics are tied up, Clinton can respond. Dispatchers will send the closest available responders. An administrative board, made up of representatives from each city, will monitor these mutual aid agreements. Everyone will benefit from the substantial increase in the number of paramedics available across the county and from a decrease in response times.

What’s next

Right now we’re working with estimates. The county has to finalize this year’s property valuations before they can give us accurate numbers about our proposed tax increase. That should happen at the end of May or beginning of June. Later in the summer, we will have Truth in Taxation, which is the legal process for raising taxes. It requires notices in the newspaper and then a public hearing. My goal is to have everyone’s questions answered long before that public hearing. Please feel free to reach out.

*Note: Simply having the paramedics/EMTs show up carries no extra charge for the patient. If, however, a patient is transported to the hospital, Clinton will charge an ambulance fee to help subsidize our ambulance program. We collected about $152,000 in fees last year, and we gave the county about $37,000 of that for their paramedics’ participation in transporting. Under the future plan, that $37,000 will stay in Clinton, but as you can see, it’s a small slice of the pie.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: