CITY OF PORTAGE REFERENDUM, FEBRUARY 20, 2024
!!! Zoom Participant Information for Thursday, February 15, 2024, Informational Meeting at City Hall, Council Chambers (5:30pm): !!!
Topic: EMS Referendum Town Hall
Time: Feb 15, 2024 05:15 PM Central Time
Meeting ID: 859 4659 2204
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Meeting ID: 859 4659 2204
The City of Portage faces a decision on how to invest in EMS service - either through continuing to pay the third-party hospital system or by creating a locally controlled, fire-based EMS service. Both options will require an investment, either through significant budget cuts or a referendum to increase the property tax level to fund the services.
The City has an opportunity to build the EMS system it needs for the community. Voters will be asked on February 20, 2024 whether or not to support an increase in the City’s annual tax levy, beginning with bills issued in December 2024, to cover the cost of:
- 14 cross trained firefighter/ EMT / paramedics
- Education and training for personnel who are not already cross-trained
- Three new ambulances and state-required equipment
- Fire station remodel to serve increased staffing and new EMS capabilities
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A FIRE-BASED EMS RESPONSE?
A feasibility study demonstrated that the City of Portage could establish a cost-effective fire-based EMS system to serve the City and neighboring communities by cross-training firefighter/ EMT / paramedics and owning and operating three ambulances.
The proposed fire-based EMS model, operating out of the centralized location of the City’s fire department, would:
- Increase paramedic coverage and reduce response times
- Increase the number of ambulances available each day
- Increase the resources available to provide lifesaving care
Under the proposed model, 14 new personnel would join the department’s existing staff of seven. All personnel would be cross-trained leading to a total of 21 firefighter/EMT / paramedics to serve the City.
Taking EMS service “in-house” as part of the fire department also gives the City complete control over the system and how best to serve residents. A fire-based EMS model will also bolster our fire response through the addition of cross-trained staff that can serve both the EMS and fire-related needs of our community. This level of control and adaptability is rarely available through partnerships with third-party providers.
If a fire-based EMS model is implemented, we expect to see EMS response times decrease by approximately 2 minutes due to the centralized location of the fire department and fire response times to decrease by 4 minutes due to the addition of 14 cross-trained firefighter/ EMT / paramedics.
Today, the City of Portage is faced with paying high fees for third-party EMS services that provide limited opportunities for local control. The City unexpectedly received significant invoices from Aspirus, its third-party provider, for ambulance service. Challenged by these unexpected costs, and a lack of control in optimizing service to residents, the Portage Fire Department has considered alternate service models, while seeking to minimize the impact on taxpayers.
The City has an opportunity to build a fire-based EMS service that will ensure full control over efficiencies and effectiveness, designing and implementing the best EMS services to meet the needs of our community.
Because of state-imposed levy limits, Portage must gain approval from taxpayers through a referendum to increase the tax levy to fund EMS services.
IF THE REFERENDUM RECEIVES A MAJORITY “YES” VOTE?
If Portage residents approve the referendum, the tax levy for the next fiscal year 2025 — and each year going forward — would increase by approximately $1.48 million to cover the cost of the 14 additional public safety personnel, education and training for those who are not already cross-trained, three new ambulances and the state-required equipment, and the remodeling of the fire station to serve increased staffing and new EMS capabilities.
If the referendum is approved by a majority of voters, the City of Portage will be able to create a locally controlled, fire-based EMS service. A fire-based EMS model will bolster our fire response through the addition of cross-trained staff that can serve both the EMS and fire-related needs of our community.
If the referendum passes, the Portage Fire Department will go from a full-time staff of 7 firefighters to a full-time staff of 21 cross-trained firefighter/EMT / paramedics. In addition, increased staffing will enable Portage Fire Department to operate 3 ambulances -- rather than the current 1.5 ambulances operated by a third party -- restoring us to the level of service our community is accustomed to.
If Portage residents approve the referendum, the tax levy in 2024 — and each year going forward — would increase by approximately $1,482,272 to cover the cost of the 14 additional firefighter/ EMT / paramedics.
This translates to a property tax increase of an estimated $152 annually, or about $2.92 per week, per $100,000 in assessed property value. The impact to a property valued at $200,000 would be $304 annually, or about $5.85 per week.
IF THE REFERENDUM RECEIVES A MAJORITY “NO” VOTE?
A rejection of the referendum would not be the equivalent of maintaining the status quo of emergency services.
If the referendum is not passed, significant budget cuts will be required to fund EMS service. While specific cuts have not been determined, it would require cuts equivalent to the combined budgets of snow plowing services, road maintenance, library programming, parks and recreation programming and maintenance, taxi and airport services, and brush and large item pick-up.
If the referendum does not pass, specific details on budget cuts will be determined by the City Council.
ATTEND AN INFORMATIONAL MEETING
The City of Portage will host information sessions on the following dates to provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about the need for this referendum and to ask questions.
- Thursday, Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the City of Portage Municipal Building (115 W. Pleasant St.)
A virtual option will also be available for those who cannot attend in person. Check back here for additional details and a link to join an information session virtually.
VOTE TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20!
QUESTIONS? Contact Portage Fire Chief Troy Haase at email@example.com.