Frequently Asked Questions
Here we dive into the details about both ballot measures.
Read a Joint Statement from the Fire Chiefs in Valley County
Star News – October 12, 2023
On November 7th, you will be asked two EMS-related questions on the ballot. First, should we form a new EMS district? Second, should we increase the levy rate by $28.30 per $100k assessed value? Why, either? For the same reason, we need flaggers at Banks/ Lowan Road on Highway 55. Valley County has become outrageously popular. Your current EMS system and the levy rate were set in the early 2000s to sustain a volunteer ambulance service. In the last twenty years, each fire district has grown from volunteer departments into agencies that staff full-time firefighters and paramedics/EMTs 24 hours a day – 365 days a year. These changes are due to growth, more calls, market conditions, and a changing atmosphere related to volunteerism, which is nearly extinct.
Why a new EMS district? The Valley County Commissioners have historically been the board for EMS but need more institutional knowledge and bandwidth to oversee EMS properly, and all three would love to see EMS-specific commissioners. EMS merits having its own elected commissioners who can provide proper oversight and strategic planning. In 2020, the state legislature passed a new EMS district model that allows for this. Last year, Riggins voters were the first community in the state to approve the new model at the same levy rate on our upcoming ballot.
Why more funding? Valley County is responsible by law for providing ambulances. The current levy rate brings in 1.3 million dollars and is equally distributed to the fire districts, $439k each, but should cost 1.1 million per agency. We forecast a 58% increase in calls by 2030 and the need to staff four paramedic-level ambulances in our county, taking 27 first responders costing 3.7 million annually at a competitive hourly rate. $400k would need to be appropriated annually to replace ambulances as needed, for a total of 4.1 million annually which this initiative accomplishes. For the past 10 years, the fire districts have been subsidizing EMS to the detriment of replacing necessary fire engines and providing firefighters. Unfortunately, the fire districts are at a point where we could provide more reliable fire protection if we didn’t provide ambulances. The fire districts would love to continue providing ambulances, as we can surge staff additional ambulances, and quite frankly – we are really good at it. We can also do it for less money than if the county had to provide it. But EMS must pay for itself, not to the detriment of fulfilling our responsibility of providing fire protection.
All three of us, your fire chiefs, are from Valley County and proud Cascade and McCall-Donnelly school systems graduates. We have spent hundreds of hours collaborating to come up with the best solution to present to you. Believe us, we would love to go back to leading departments where folks could buy homes for $100k or rent for $500 per month and make $12 per hour and not have to present you with these options. Unfortunately, we believe those days are gone and that our responsibility lies in offering up our dilemma to you. Providing quality fire and EMS services is a costly undertaking. Both are a considerable community investment into the health and safety of you, your friends, neighbors, and our visitors. With the county’s increase in popularity, growth, and visitors, we need your help. Please get out and vote on November 7th. Regardless of your position, it will give us direction as we plan for the safety of our amazing county. If you have any questions, please chat with any of us. We love serving and listening to you.
Juan Bonilla – Donnelly Fire Chief
Garrett de Jong – McCall Fire Chief
Steve Hull – Cascade Fire Chief
What are the two ballot measures?
On November 7, 2023, registered voters in Valley County will vote on two measures regarding EMS services in Valley County.
- Formation of a new “Ambulance District” to be called the Valley Countywide EMS District. This measure must pass by 50% plus 1 vote.
- An EMS levy rate increase from .00012 to .0004 to fund EMS services throughout Valley County. This measure must pass by a two-thirds supermajority.
How many votes does the EMS district need to pass?
This measure must pass by 50% plus 1 vote.
How many votes does the levy rate increase need to pass?
This measure must pass by a two-thirds supermajority.
Where can I vote on November 7th?
POLLING LOCATIONS (open 8am – 8pm on November 7th):
▪️ American Legion Hall at 105 E. Mill Street in Cascade will be the polling location for the Alpha, Cascade and West Mountain precincts.
▪️ Donnelly Bible Church at 159 FW Gestrin Street in Donnelly will be the polling location for the Donnelly and Roseberry precincts.
▪️ Idaho First Bank at 475 Deinhard Lane in McCall will be the polling location for the McCall and Payette Precincts.
Not sure which precinct you are? Find your location here.
EMS District Questions
Why is the current district being reogranized into a new district?
The current EMS district was formed in 2009 and is overseen by the Valley County Commissioners.
The District was originally formed to maintain a volunteer ambulance service.
A big part of why the current district is being reorganized is due to two key factors…new state provisions for Ambulance Districts and oversight.
New Ambulance District Provisions:
In 2020, the Idaho State Legislature passed new Ambulance District provisions that calls on residents within the district to help support and govern the way these districts are managed. The provisions allow for an increase of the district levy rate to four hundredths percent (.0004).
The current district is governed by the Valley County Commissioners. They meet once per year to distribute budget funding to fire districts. Under the new organization of the district, three elected commissioners would be put in place to manage the district and provide oversight. District-specific commissioners would meet monthly, rather than annually.
What is the wording of the EMS District formation question on the ballot?
INSTRUCTIONS: To vote in favor of the organization of a new countywide ambulance service district named Valley Countywide EMS District, place an X in the square at the left of the words “Ambulance District -Yes”. To vote against the organization of a new countywide ambulance district named Valley Countywide EMS District, place an X in the square at the left of the words “Ambulance District -No”. If you change your mind, tear, or make a mistake on this ballot, request a new ballot from an election worker.
QUESTION; Shall the Board of Commissioners of Valley County be authorized and empowered to organize a new countywide ambulance service district to be named Valley Countywide EMS District pursuant to Idaho Code Section 31-3911?
STATEMENT: If more than one-half (1/2) of the votes cast vote “yes” to this ballot question, the Valley County Commissioners will (pursuant to Idaho Code Section 31-3911) be authorized to organize a new countywide ambulance district and dissolve the existing Valley County Emergency Service District.
How is the current EMS District Funded?
The current EMS district levies .00012 (or $12 per one hundred thousand of taxable value).
This provides the current EMS district with $1.2 million annually.
Valley County Commissioners meet annually as the EMS District and award a contract of one-third of the $1.2 million annual budget to each fire district: McCall Fire, Donnelly Fire, and Cascade Fire.
This equates to approximately $418,000 to each fire district to maintain ambulance services.
What is the funding from the EMS District used for?
With the funding awarded by the EMS District, each fire department is required to maintain at least one ambulance basic life support (BLS) with one emergency medical technician (EMT).
To maintain one adequately staffed Paramedic Level ambulance (including advanced live support or ALS), the annual cost is $1.1 million.
The additional ambulance operating costs has been subsidized by the fire districts. In addition, Valley County has covered the deficit in funding with one-time ARPA Funding.
I thought the fire departments provided EMS Services. How are they different?
Under the county levy-based tax system, EMS services are funded separately from fire services.
Current Valley County taxing districts include:
- Valley County Emergency Medical Service District
- The budget from this District is divided evenly between the three fire districts who are contracted by the district to provide EMS services.
- Cascade Rural Fire District
- Donnelly Rural Fire Protection District
- McCall Fire Protection District
While funded separately, EMS services are provided by the fire districts.
In some counties (i.e. Ada County), EMS services are completely separate.
In Valley County, EMS services are provided by the fire districts for two primary reasons:
It is more cost effective. Rather than maintaining separate buildings, overhead, supplies, management, etc., EMS services can be paired with existing fire department infrastructure.
Surge capacity. Each fire department currently staffs one ambulance, but also has one reserve ambulance each. That means there are six ambulances within the county and in the case of multiple calls, fire districts can staff the second ambulances with cross-trained personnel from engine crews. Conversely, it is a benefit to the fire districts to have more personnel to respond to fires, car accidents, and rescues.
Overall, this model saves taxpayers money and provides higher quality emergency services.
How would funding under the NEW EMS District be allocated?
Funding would be allocated similarly to the current structure, with one-third of the total $4.1 million district budget being allocated to each community fire district.
So, each district would receive approximately $1.36 million in funding to maintain an ALS ambulance and staff EMT personnel.
Levy Rate Questions
What is the current levy rate and what is the proposed rate increase?
The proposed levy rate would increase from .00012 ($12 per $100,000 of taxable value) to .0004 ($40 per $100,000 of taxable value) beginning in fiscal year 2024.
This would increase annual property tax from $12 per one hundred thousand of taxable value to $40 per one hundred thousand of taxable value.
“Taxable Value” is assessed value less the $125,000 homeowner exemption (if applicable)
What is the wording of the Levy Rate question on the ballot?
INSTRUCTIONS: To vote in favor of the Special Tax Levy, place an X in the square at the left of the words “IN FAVOR OF.” To vote against the Special Tax Levy, place an X in the square at the left of the word “AGAINST.” If you change your mind, tear, or make a mistake on this ballot, request a new ballot from an election worker.
QUESTION: Shall the Board of Commissioners of the Valley County Emergency Service District be authorized and empowered to increase its levy and budget, pursuant to Idaho Code Section 63-802(1)(a), to defray its costs of staffing, equipping and maintaining the District’s Operations to provide ambulance transport and emergency medical services throughout Valley County by increasing its budget in the amount of $3,186,805 and no/100 dollars commencing with the Fiscal Year 2024-2025 and which shall then be established as the base budget for the purposes of Idaho Code § 63-802?
STATEMENT: The levy will be used to fund all District operations and will be a tax increase of $28.30 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value, per year, based upon current conditions.
How would this levy rate impact the EMS District budget?
The annual budget of the new Valley Countywide EMS District would increase from $1.2 million to $4.1 million in the first fiscal year (2024).
This budget would allow for four fully staffed ALS (advanced life support) ambulances in Valley County.
This budget would also cover the current budget shortfall. Fire districts cannot sustain the subsidization of EMS services without seeing an impact on levels of service.
How do increasing assessed values impact the levy rate?
Under the levy-based system used in Valley County, as assessed values go UP, the actual levy rate goes DOWN because the levy rate is based on a set district budget.
Each year, all taxing districts (including the EMS district) set a budget via public hearing. To get the levy rate for that year, the district budget is divided by the total countywide assessed value.
Using the proposed $4.1 million budget for the new EMS district, we can see how the ACTUAL levy rate each homeowner is assessed decreases as the total assessed value increases.
|Total Assessed Value
(less homeowner exemption)
(based on a $4.1 million budget)
Why is a levy rate increase needed?
The increase in funding is being proposed due to increasing demands on EMS services and resources in Valley County.
More residents and visitors mean more demand for services.
How is demand for EMS services rising in Valley County?
- An overall increase in ambulance demand in Valley County of 58% by 2030.
- 53% increase in the Cascade Rural Fire District
- 42% in the Donnelly Rural Fire Protection District
- 80% in the McCall Fire Protection District
- An increase of 55% in the elderly population in Valley County by 2030
Fire departments report a significant increase in EMS calls over the last 10 years:
- Donnelly: 100.6% increase in EMS calls in the last 10 years with an average run time of 80 minutes per call.
- Cascade: 79% increase in EMS calls from 2010 – 2022.
- McCall: 41% increase in EMS calls from 2010 – 2022.
Idaho Transportation Department Automatic Traffic Counters located in Donnelly show – click here for the data::
- A 30-year annual increase in vehicle traffic of 62.8%
- A 20-year annual increase in vehicle traffic of 48.9%
- A 24-hour annual average in vehicle traffic in the last 10 years of 44.5%
Articles and References for further reading:
Projected Growth -Master Facilities Plan Valley County
Volunteer Providers of EMS: Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations, Idaho Legislature
Valley County EMS Services Delivery Study – ESCI
‘Huge safety concern’: Valley Co. feels EMS stress with limited funding
EMS in Idaho is Broken
Salmon River Ambulance District formally established
EMS providers struggle in rural Idaho, OPE reports
Waiting for help, Idaho Reports
Key data impacting the decision to put both measures on the ballot:
Valley county has a population of 12,464 (2022) and grew by 26.4% (2,602 residents) between 2010-2022, ranking 6th for population growth out of the 44 Idaho Counties (U of I Indicators Idaho, 2023).
Approximately 15.1 million visitors come to southwest and north central Idaho every year, many of whom visit Valley County as a top tourism destination outside of the Treasure Valley (Idaho Tourism Data, 2023).
The median age in Valley County is 49.4 (2022), 10 years older than the median age in the US, and 12 years older than the median age in all of Idaho. 26.7% of the population is over the age of 65, compared to 16.6% in Idaho (U of I Indicators Idaho, 2023).
In 2021, there were 12,162 housing units in Valley County. The number of housing units increased by 30% between 1980-1990, by 21.7% between 1990-2000, by 45.8% between 2000-2010, and 3.4% between 2010-2020. Between 2017-2021, housing units were 24.6% owner occupied, 5.7% renter occupied, and 69.7% vacant. The median value of owner occupied housing increased by 102.1% between 1980 and 2017-2021 and ranked 3rd of 44 counties in Idaho (U of I Indicators Idaho, 2023). A high level of second homes and vacation rentals likely accounts for these numbers, and has put a strain on the local housing market in Valley County (Boise Dev, Valley County Grapples With Housing Supply Shortage, April 2023).
The labor participation rate (the proportion of people 16 years old and older who are employed or available for work) is relatively low in Valley County at 54%. Wage per job ranked 20th (highest to lowest) of the 44 Idaho counties at $46,388 in 2021 and increased by only 0.8% between 2020-2021 (U of I Indicators Idaho, 2023). A livable wage in Valley County ranges from $15.75 per hour for a single person without children up to $55.41 per hour for a single person with three children–presumably due to the cost/scarcity of childcare in the region. Poverty wages are $6.53 per hour for a single person without children and $13.34 for a single person with three children (MIT Living Wage Calculator, 2023). The average home value in the county was $660,973 as of August, 2023 (Zillow, 2023).
The overall operating cost of EMS service in Valley County is estimated to be $3,303,030.00 annually, not accounting for capital expenses (2023 Idaho EMS Resource Assessment Survey).
To help offset costs of capital expenses, on October 16, 2023, the Valley County Commissioners voted to adopt Fire District Impact Fees. Find more information here.
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