The West Side Community Healthcare District, which oversees the area's ambulance service, is inviting community input on a potential parcel tax that would be used to help fund the District for years to come.

The District is working with CivicMic, a public engagement firm, and together they will host a virtual meeting on Zoom at 6 p.m. Dec. 9 to start discussing a potential parcel tax. They also have created a survey about the services that the District provides that residents can fill out in advance of the meeting.

A parcel tax is being discussed as a way to offset the growing expenses the District incurs. As the community has grown, the number of calls for service that the ambulances have to make has grown significantly, but the funding has remained unchanged. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, staffing issues and rising costs have all impacted the District's bottom-line. 

The District is primarily funded through billing for service and from Measure A, a tax that was approved by voters in 1984. The tax is applied to all properties in the district, with assessments depending on property use. Single family homes are assessed at $40 a year and farmland is taxed at 10 cents an acre. Those are the maximum amounts authorized by Measure A.

"There was no method of escalation built into the Measure," said Chief of Ambulance Operations Michael Courtney. "It's stayed a flat fee and that is why we are in the boat we are in."

Courtney said the District started the year with around $600,000 in reserves and now are down to under $300,000.

There are no specifics about the proposed parcel tax. The District plans on holding a series of meetings to gather community input and eventually put the tax on the ballot, possibly in June 2022.

Parcel taxes are a form of special property tax, which must be paid by the owners of parcels, or units, of real estate. However, unlike standard property taxes, which are based on the value of the property, a parcel tax is an assessment based on the characteristics of the parcel. These assessments can include taxing a parcel based on square footage or by dwelling unit, or the tax may be a flat rate per parcel. The parcel tax is used in California to fund K–12 public education and to fund community facilities districts usually known as "Mello-Roos" districts.

Between 2003 to 2020, California voters have approved 56.35% of parcel taxes and rejected 43.65% of them, according to Ballotpedia.

The online survey for the District can be found at https://www.civicmic.com/west-side-community-healthcare/#WestSideCHDSurvey.

The zoom link for the meeting will be posted on Dec. 9 at https://www.civicmic.com/WestSideCHD.