It began as an idea to benefit emergency medical services in Dale County and has ended up winning a statewide award for excellence.
The Dale County Commissioners accepted the award on behalf of the citizens of Dale County during the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Annual Convention Aug. 22 in Orange Beach.
The 2019 Excellence in County Government Award was earned for the countywide approval of a $5 tag tax earmarked for emergency medical services in the county.
“We hope your success will inspire other counties to also pursue innovative solutions to problems that confront their constituents,” said ACCA Public Relations Manager Marty Stokes in announcing the award. The winner is selected by a five-person committee comprised of county commissioners from across the state.
“This awards program is designed to bring statewide attention to outstanding accomplishments on the part of county government,” Stokes explained. “Over the years, this awards program has brought recognition to programs across the state ranging from innovative approaches to industry recruitment to unusual efforts at solving community problems.”
Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship said the history behind the idea for the tag tax to benefit EMS began while he was serving on the Ozark City Council. At that time the city of Ozark used an ambulance service that also covered Troy. “It got to the point where our ambulance was sitting in Brundidge so when it was needed it would go to either Ozark or Troy,” he explained.
Blankenship said that volunteer EMS services are diminishing because of a lack of funding and because of a lack of volunteers. “We looked at several ways to generate money to fund the EMS services and finally came up with a tag transaction fee because we thought that would have the least impact on any single group,” he said.
“As a commission, we’ve been working on this for eight years trying to get some funding for emergency medical services,” Blankenship added. “Through all the discussions one thing that everybody stayed committed to was making sure it all went to EMS.
“One of our many goals was to use this money to put more paid staff in the volunteer EMS units in the county,” Blankenship said. “We could not address the problem without additional funding.
“The money generated by the tag tax is being used strictly for providing EMS service in Dale County,” Blankenship said.
“We’re trying to get the volunteer organizations in a position where we can get money to them so they can spend more time doing emergency medical service than they are fundraising,” Blankenship said. “We wanted people behind this proposal because a ‘no’ vote would have meant we would have no money for emergency medical services.”
A 17-word question near the end of the Nov. 6, 2018 Dale County election ballot read, “Do you favor the adoption of Act 239 of the 2018 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature?”
Although “emergency medical services” was not in the verbiage, approval of Act 239 allowed a $5 tag transaction fee earmarked to fund emergency medical services in Dale County.
A “yes” vote meant the assessment of a $5 fee for each motor vehicle—except trailer tags—issued or renewed in Dale County beginning Jan. 1. The fee does not apply to tag transfers and replacement tag transactions.
Three percent of the proceeds from the fees collected are retained by the Dale County Revenue Commissioner’s office to cover administrative costs and the remainder given to the Dale County Commission to be distributed to municipalities and emergency medical service organizations for EMS services, according to the bill.
Blankenship said that the funds generated this quarter have increased from $58,000 for the first