Allen County commissioners reminded Allen Countians Tuesday that local sales tax assessments would increase by a quarter of a cent starting April 1.
The quarter cent to support construction and equipping a new Allen County Hospital was approved overwhelmingly by voters Nov. 2. Proceeds are expected to be about $400,000 year.
Rate charts will be sent to merchants throughout the county toward the end of this month.
The increase will push Iola’s rate to 8.55 percent and that in Humboldt to 8.8 percent. The statewide rate increased by a penny on Jan. 1 to 6.3 percent.
Iola will participate in the hospital’s financing by dedicating up to $350,000 from an existing half-cent tax, also starting in the spring. A half-cent tax in the city brings in about $575,000 a year, according to City Clerk Roxanne Hutton.
County and city participation will continue for 10 years. Other revenue sources for the hospital — an estimated investment of about $25 million — will come from hospital profits and Medicare reimbursements.
Commissioners said they were uncertain how soon demands would be placed on funding, but if they occurred before sales tax money accrued they would borrow from an existing fund, either general or public works.
In response to a question from Sheriff Tom Williams, commissioners said they wouldn’t consider raises for county employees until later.
A determining factor, said Commissioner Dick Works, “is what our (health) insurance rates are. We’re anticipating higher rates and we don’t want to put a burden on employees by asking them to pay part of their premiums.” Those figures are expected by late February.
The county pays the full premium for employees, and employees are required to pay premiums for other family members.
He said end-of-year financial figures would weigh in the decision.
Williams noted that employees didn’t receive a raise for 2009.
COMMISSIONERS approved installation of equipment on the 911 dispatch tower to give Iola wireless access to the data base maintained at the emergency response center, 410 N. State St. Access today is through much slower hard lines.
As an aside, Commission Chairman Gary McIntosh talked with Iola officials later in the day about restoring emergency vehicle access to the old Santa Fe Railroad right of way near the county’s ambulance station.
City crews cut a drainage channel on what had been a road leading to the right of way. The county restored the road and it was cut again.
McIntosh said he was told plans were to reopen the right of way and also provide county ambulance crews with keys so they could use the Prairie Spirit Trail in an emergency at other points, including near the Cedarbrook housing development.
ANGIE MURPHY, 911 communications director, told commissioners a quality assurance program had been put in place at the dispatch center and would be coordinated by Jody Mader.
Mader is a communications officer and certified emergency medical technician. She will review all medical calls.
“She will make sure we’re meeting all emergency medical dispatch requirements,” Murphy said, with the anticipated outcome of “cutting down if not eliminating the possibility of litigation and to ensure we are providing adequate service.”
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