Kenneth City Mayor Teresa Zemaitis to Pinellas County Commission: Vote down "subdistrict" proposal
KENNETH CITY - This town of about 4,500 has stayed out of the fight over Pinellas emergency medical services that has consumed much of the county for the past few months.
But after County Administrator Bob LaSala proposed a plan to carve out 22 EMS subdistricts that would be taxed separately, Mayor Teresa Zemaits could no longer stay out of the fray. Under the plan, her town would become its own subdistrict. And it's unclear how the county would figure the property taxes on Kenneth City residents because the town has no EMS budget. Residents simply pay the countywide EMS tax, which then goes to the Lealman Fire District which provides first response EMS service to the town.
Zemaitis asked commissioners to turn down the proposal in a Monday (Dec. 19) email:
"I, like everyone else, have been following the EMS saga. There are many possibilities for how such a system can operate and time needs to be afforded to make the most logical and fiscally responsible decision for the residents of Pinellas County.
"This system has always been touted as 'countywide.' There is no division in that term. Countywide is countywide. Simple. No subdistricts. No alternate taxing methods. One service for all. One rate for all. Period.
"It is obvious that throughout the county there is a huge discrepancy in property values. Many of the areas with the highest property values, north county and the beaches, have less places to work than are available in south county. People travel to work, hence, the distribution of the county's residents shifts throughout the day, thereby making the number of calls per district an unreliable source of data to tax a district by. Does an EMS call for a Safety Harbor resident calling from St. Petersburg count in the taxing calculations for Safety Harbor or St. Petersburg?
"In addition, a quick Google search will show you that there are more nursing homes in south county than there are in north county. These facilities are a major contributor to the number of calls EMS handles yet residents of these facilities are from all over the county. Would it be fair to tax south county residents at a higher rate to pay for these calls? Of course not.
"I would ask each of you to use reason and common sense tomorrow. Please do not approve these EMS subdistricts. Let's keep politics out of emergency services for our residents and have consistent countywide service for a countywide price.
Town of Kenneth City"
-- Anne Lindberg, Times Staff Writer