As budget process begins, Marfa requests greater allotment of county EMS funds

MARFA — With the annual budgeting process underway for both Presidio County and local municipalities, the City of Marfa is asking that the county nearly double its regular contributions to the city’s EMS — a request commissioners said they would consider but may be prohibited by the county’s own budgetary restrictions. 

In a letter presented at Wednesday morning’s Presidio County Commissioners Court, Marfa City Manager Mandy Roane requested $88,000 from the county, or 15% of the EMS operation’s annual budget — a marked increase from the $45,000, or 10%, generally allotted by the county each year.

Roane, in her letter, argues that Marfa’s EMS is not being equitably funded compared to the City of Presidio’s EMS, which receives $100,000 from the county — 15% of its annual budget. The requested increase would put the city EMS allotments on equal footing, percentage wise. 

Roane argued the increase is justified by the fact that Marfa EMS frequently assists Presidio EMS, while Marfa EMS’s primary aid comes from Jeff Davis County EMS.

“In an average year, our EMS goes on about 350 calls and travels over 12,000 miles. Of those calls, just over 25% are outside of the city of Marfa, generally south Presidio County,” wrote Roane, who also noted grant opportunities that have helped keep the medical department afloat in the past were starting to run out.

“This is a tight budget year for everyone, but the citizens of the entire county depend on Marfa EMS, and with such talented and dedicated medics, it’s unfair to continue to ask them to do more with less,” wrote Roane. 

Mayor Manny Baeza showed support for the initiative at the city’s initial budget workshop last week. He noted that the city rarely asks the county for cash. “Since we’re not asking the county for money all the time, maybe that’s why they’re saying Marfa’s fine, we need to focus on Presidio,” he said.

At the commissioners court meeting, county officials said they would consider Marfa’s request during their ongoing budgeting process and were thankful for their “outstanding” services but suggested the city tamper its expectations given the county is in poor financial shape and will likely adopt a deficit budget this year. 

“We’re already in the red to a degree that’s very uncomfortable and disturbing,” said County Commissioner Precinct 1 David Beebe. 

“It’d be nice to wave a wand and give y’all a bunch of extra money, but we don’t actually have [any]. We’re going to do what we can. We need you bad,” he added. 

Former Presidio EMS Director Malynda Richardson and current Director Troy Sparks explained both services are extremely expensive to run, are facing rising costs due to inflation, and county allotments haven’t been increased in six years or more. They said around 30% of Presidio EMS’s recent calls have been outside of city limits. 

“There should be some equitable increase between Presidio and Marfa for EMS, and fire for coverage outside the city limits, because both services are in a real tight spot right now,” said Richardson.  

County Judge Jose Portillo added that Presidio’s location on the border means more EMS traffic coming up from Mexico, adding to the local burden. He thanked the City of Marfa for making their needs known and said the commissioners court would look at the numbers and consider the proposal. 

“We appreciate you bringing this up and being at the meeting and giving us your input,” said Portillo.