HAYS — If Ellis County voters this spring don’t pass two proposed quarter-cent countywide sales taxes, it will mean a reduction in services, said Jason Kennedy, director of the county’s emergency services and the health department.


“None of us want that to happen,” said Kennedy, speaking to a handful of Ellis County residents who showed up on Ash Wednesday at the Hays VFW Post 9076 for a county-sponsored educational session on the sales taxes.


EMS had a $3.1 million budget in 2019, and recouped $1.1 million of that, Kennedy said.


“What would a reduction in service look like?” he asked.


For starters, every Ellis County ambulance now has at least one paramedic on it, with average response time of 4.5 minutes, or even shorter in Hays. The nationwide average is 8 minutes, although some urban areas have 30-minute wait times.


“We are able to start the care that you would get at a hospital, we’re pretty well able to start it at your doorstep,” Kennedy said.


That level of service, on the average $170,000 home in Ellis County, costs each household $79 annually in their property taxes, or $68 each person, he said.


Ellis County is planning an April mail ballot to ask voters about two different sales taxes. One question seeks a quarter-cent tax for health services, with all the proceeds going to Ellis County’s EMS and Health Department.


A second question will seek a quarter-cent general sales tax, which by law must be shared proportionally with Hays, Ellis, Victoria and Schoenchen. Voters can vote yes or no on any or all of the questions. If both are approved, it would add a half-cent tax on each dollar spent.


With a sunset provision of 10 years, the sales tax would raise about $2.2 million annually to ease Ellis County’s ongoing severe budget crunch.


The Ellis County Commission the past two years cut more than $2 million out of the county budget, a 10% reduction, said interim county administrator Darin Myers, also speaking at the public meeting.


With a half-cent sales tax, Myers said the tax on a $10 sandwich would be a nickel, 50 cents on $100, and $2.50 on a new dishwasher purchase.