Lacombe County administration is recommending council approve a $2-per-capita financial commitment for STARS air ambulance.
STARS representatives made a pitch to county council last month seeking ongoing support for the service whose helicopters pick up those requiring urgent medical help.
It costs just under $40 million per year to run STARS. About $8 million in funding comes from the Alberta government, with just over $30 million coming from STARS fundraising campaigns and lottery funds. The STARS calendar generates about $417,000 and $2.7 million comes through site registration and the emergency contact centre.
Based on Lacombe County’s population of $10,343, a $2-per-capita contribution would amount to $20,686. County staff recommended the county make a three-year funding commitment beginning next year.
The county turned down similar requests from STARS in 2018 and 2016.
“Lacombe County has generally taken the position that the residents of Lacombe County should determine if they wish to support any given charitable organization and they should not be forced to contribute through local property taxes,” says a report to council from county manager Tim Timmons.
However, STARS is unique in that it provides a service available to all residents. Timmons added that council may also want to consider that communities that support STARS financially are “in essence also supporting the service being provided in municipalities that are not contributing financially to the service.”
Since 2018, STARS has flown 48 missions to Lacombe County.
Other central Alberta rural municipalities have approved ongoing funding. County of Stettler provides $2.20 per capita annually and Clearwater County, Camrose County, Red Deer County and Mountain View County each provide $2 per capita. Ponoka County provides $20,000 annually.
Lacombe County council will debate the funding request at its Thursday meeting.