County considers using depletion reserves, won’t cut EMS services

By Jonathan Zweygardt
Hays Post – May 21, 2015

A sharp drop in oil prices has left Ellis County with a more than $1 million budget shortfall for 2016.

As the county commission works to erase the budget deficit, one area they will not cut is Emergency Medical Services to Ellis and Victoria.

A proposal to cut EMS to the two towns was brought up as an idea to help save the county money, but at a special budget meeting Tuesday, the commission took that option off the table.

The mayors of both Victoria and Ellis were among those who addressed the commission in support of continuing services in their towns.

Victoria mayor Jerry Kanzenbach read a statement in support of keeping services in Victoria.

“Why are Victoria and Ellis always targeted but no mention of cuts to Hays?” Kanzenbach said. “The county sure doesn’t falter when spending our tax dollars that we contribute, but is oh so quick to cut our services.”

Commissioner Dean Haselhorst said he received about 25 calls from people who were concerned about the loss of those services.

The commissioners agreed they will not cut EMS services.

Among the other options discussed to reduce the shortfall was the possibility of using funds from the oil and gas depletion fund.

According to Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund, the fund has approximately $3.1 million and, once the fund is drained, the county will not receive any more funds.

Sund said he believes this fund was created for times like this.

“This is an economic downturn that the county knew nothing about, the residents here knew nothing about,” he said. “It was driven by oil prices.”

Haselhorst also expressed interest in using a portion of that fund.

“That fund was created for a reason, and I know surrounding counties have used it,” he said.

He suggested possibly using $1 million of the fund to help alleviate the 2016 budget shortfall.

The commission also will consider at the possibility of a sales tax, as well as cutting funding to outside agencies.

Commissioners will hear requests for subsidies from outside agencies at each commission meeting in June before holding another budget meeting toward the end of June.

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