Oregon Public Broadcasting

Voters in Milton-Freewater overwhelmingly approved a property tax hike to fund a new ambulance district.

The area is currently served by a private ambulance company.

But for the last six months, Umatilla County has had to step in and subsidize the business.

Jim Stearns is the Emergency Manager for Umatilla County. He says at the core of the problem are ever-decreasing reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid.

"So on these federal programs, what's happening is the amount that is approved and reimbursed does not cover the expenses of operating the ambulance service," Stears said.

Residents within the district will be taxed 25 cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. Voters also approved five new board members to oversee the district.

Stearns says it will up to that board to decide whether to stick with the current service provider, seek a new ambulance service, or buy equipment, hire paramedics and provide the service for the district.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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