Rules for Missouri Ambulance Districts
Petition to become part of an AD
Several options for changing AD boundaries are set out in the statutes (190.070). The procedures for expanding the boundaries to include, or annex, an area are as follows:
- A petition for annexation must:
- Be filed with the county clerk in the county having the largest percentage of the AD;
- Be addressed to the county commissioners;
- Bear signatures of not less than 10% of voters, or fifty voters,whichever is less, in the area asking to be annexed by the AD.
- As “nearly as possible” the law says, the county commission will then hold a hearing on the annexation petition. Then, if the county commission finds that the annexation petition follows the AD law, the commissioners will order the annexation question be submitted to the voters within the area to be annexed and within the AD.
- If a majority of voters within the area to be annexed and within the AD are in favor of the annexation, then the county commissioners by order declare the area annexed along with a description of the altered AD boundaries.
The statutes (190.087) have special procedures for an AD servicing a city in both Franklin and St. Louis counties to be expanded so that the whole city is within the AD.
Protest to an annexation
Any person aggrieved by an AD annexation petition should testify at the hearing by the county commissioners; however, the county commissioners are limited to just ensuring the petition follows the law, not judging the merits of the annexation. The final time to protest an annexation is at the ballot box.
Annexation by a city
For many years, it has not been clear whether the AD or the city is to provide EMS to property within the AD that is annexed voluntarily into the city. The conflict results from the existence of two potentially applicable statutes, Sections 72.418 and 321.320, RSMo, because application of each yields a different result.
Section 72.418 provides that ADs serving an area shall continue to provide EMS to an area annexed by a city with an EMS department, while Section 321.320 does not. It should be noted that both sections permit the AD to levy taxes on the property to pay bonded indebtedness that existed prior to annexation.
The Missouri Supreme Court resolved the question with an opinion handed down on March 17, 2009 (South Metropolitan, Res v. city of Lee’s Summit, App, SC89558). The court held that Section 321.320 excludes from an AD any property located in an AD’s boundaries and annexed by a city with at least 40,000 inhabitants that is not wholly located within an AD. In order to harmonize the conflicting sections and give both meaning, the conflict was resolved by applying Section 321.320 to counties without a boundary commission and Section 72.418 to counties with a boundary commission. St. Louis County is currently the only county with a boundary commission.
In its opinion, the court also stated that the population language contained in Section 321.322.3 excludes its application in St. Louis County, currently the only county with a boundary commission. Other specific language contained in Section 321.322.4, in effect, authorizes Section 72.418 to apply to Harrisonville, a city in a county with no boundary commission. This application was drawn narrowly, providing further evidence that Section 72.418 is intended primarily to apply in counties with a boundary commission.
Except for one scenario, which has been declared unconstitutional, the statutes do not provide a process for part of an AD to be excluded from the AD. Section 190.088 provided a limited process for detachment, but that statute was declared unconstitutional by the Circuit Court of Cole County in 2016.
Consolidation can be a way for ADs to maintain or increase levels of service as well as more effectively and efficiently use taxpayer resources.
Two or more ADs may consolidate by following this process (190.090):
- Consolidation petitions are signed by petitioners living in each of the existing ADs, whose number on each petition equals 10% of the votes cast in the last election for governor; or resolutions approved by the boards of all ADs to be consolidated.
- Within 12 months of each other, the consolidated petitions or joint resolutions are filed with the county clerk in the county having the greater part of the proposed consolidated AD, and the county clerk presents the consolidation petition or joint resolution to the county commissioners who order an election.
- If a majority of voters voted for consolidation, the county commission having jurisdiction makes and enters its order declaring the consolidation proposal passed.
- Within 30 days after declaring the consolidation proposal passed, the county commission divides the consolidated AD into six election districts and orders an election to be held in the same manner as a new AD (see Terms in Chapter I. Background and Formation).
- The first meeting of the consolidated AD board of directors must be held within 30 days after the election of the initial directors of the consolidated AD at a time and place designated by the declaring county commission.
- The newly elected directors must choose a name for the consolidated AD during the first meeting of the consolidated AD board and notify all the county clerks for the counties in which the consolidated AD is located of the name of the consolidated AD.
- On the 30th day following the election of the directors for the consolidated AD, the ADs that were consolidated cease to exist and, in fact, all the assets and obligations of those ADs become the assets and obligations of the consolidated AD.
Instead of full consolidation, some ADs consider shared services arrangements — sort of broader mutual aid agreements (190.060.1; 190.060.1; 190.060.5; 190.060.6). Shared services can even be provided by a quasi-government organization set up by the ADs.
Economic development impacts
Although borders are not changed, some economic development programs can take property tax revenue away from the AD and give the monies to cities and counties. ADs need to determine if such economic development truly benefits the community or if it will result in undue hardship. For example, if there an increase in activity because of the program, the AD may have an increase in service demands but without any additional tax money to do so. In either case, the ADs would be well-advised to seek legal counsel that specializes in economic development law.
There are three types of economic development projects for which the assessed valuation is frozen for some years, and the AD will not receive all the additional tax revenue even though property values increase.
The first type of economic development project is called Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The incremental tax revenue from property value increases in the TIF district due to the economic development is used for 23 years as part of the economic development of the property (99.800-99.865). TIF projects are meant to redevelop “blighted” properties, which in theory would not be developed without tax incentives. Decisions about a TIF project are made by a nine-member commission that conducts studies, holds hearings, and then creates an overall redevelopment plan, which is then sent to the city or county that initiated the TIF for its approval. The TIF law is loaded with exceptions and alternatives. What follows is the most generic application of TIF law to school districts and “other taxing districts” such as ADs.
The school districts in the redevelopment area agree on two members to be on the TIF commission. All other taxing districts in the redevelopment area agree on one member to be on the TIF commission. The six remaining members of the TIF commission are appointed by the chief elected officer of the city or county that is declaring the TIF.
Once the redevelopment plan is approved by the TIF commission, the theory is that the school districts and other taxing districts no longer have any concerns about administration of the TIF project, so the six members of the TIF commission appointed by the city or county can terminate the existence of the three members representing the school districts and other taxing districts. However, school districts and other taxing districts need to pay attention as one metropolitan school district found out when it learned there was an attempt by a city to use leftover TIF project monies to build a soccer complex instead of distributing the leftover monies to the school district — monies the school district believed to be theirs, not the city’s.
Prior to 2004, taxing districts received none of the incremental tax revenue from property value increases due to the economic development during the 23-year life of a TIF project. Due to a change in legislation, taxing districts such as ADs now receive at least 50% of the incremental tax revenue from property value increases due to the economic development (99.848).
In theory, there are payments to the other taxing districts in lieu of property taxes (99.845.1) as well as surplus incremental tax revenue not used for redevelopment that is supposed to be distributed to the taxing districts (99.820.1[b]). A wise AD board will monitor the reports required by Section 99.865 to keep track of the collection of monies, and how those funds are being handled.
The second type of economic development project is called an Enterprise Enhancement Zone (EEZ) in which 50% or more of the taxes on real estate property improvements is abated for anywhere from two to 25 years if those improvements create sustainable jobs in targeted industries in “blighted” areas (135.950-135.973).
Decisions about an EEZ are made by a seven-member board that “conducts the activities necessary to advise” the city or county on the EEZ. The school districts in the EEZ agree on one member to be on the EEZ board and all other taxing districts in the EEZ agree on another member — both board members serve an initial five-year term. The chief elected officer of the city or county appoints the five remaining members of the EEZ board.
The third type of tax diverting development tool is Chapter 100. In this process, a local government “owns” a development project for a specified period, and leases it back to the developer. This causes the property to be removed from the tax rolls altogether for the life of the financing. Amendments adopted in 2018 give emergency service districts such as ADs the right to require reimbursement for up to 100% of lost revenues (100.050). The overall economic impact of the development to the affected community, and associated increases in other tax bases, ought to be considered and discussed early in the process between the AD and the entity considering Chapter 100 incentives.