Kalispell Voters Reject EMS Levy Request

Voters deny request for additional EMS funds, forcing city to look at ways to maintain level of service with aging resources and increased call loads

By Dillon Tabish

Kalispell staff will work to provide the same level of emergency medical services despite falling short in a bid for a funding boost in last week’s election, according to the city manager.

Doug Russell said the goal behind the citywide ballot measure, which sought $736,000 annually in mill levy funds for municipal EMS, was to let residents decide the level of service that the city would provide.

Although roughly 400 provisional ballots remain to be counted in Flathead County, including an untold amount involving city residents, it appears the ballot measure fell just short.

Residents narrowly rejected the request by 188 votes, with 3,101 against — 52 percent — and 2,913 in favor.

City officials proposed the levy request in light of increased call loads and the lingering need for capital improvements, such as updating the city’s aging fleet of ambulances. The funds would have removed the city’s general fund subsidy and potentially lead to increased staffing that would allow an additional ambulance to be in service, from two to three.

With the levy request falling short, Russell said the city would not make any “knee-jerk reactions,” including reducing staff levels, and would work to maintain its level of service for the time being.

“We’ll just continue to provide the best service we can with the resources we have,” Russell said.

He added, “There is a potential for attrition and we will continue to monitor what that does to call loads … We tried to look at this in a proactive fashion so we weren’t caught in a jam if we waited three, four years.”

Kalispell provides Advanced Life Support and other rescue and response operations as a public service dating back to 1932.

Last year there were a total of 2,143 calls for emergency medical services (EMS) in the city.