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Four years ago on February 29th, 2012, an EF-4 tornado roared through Southeastern Illinois, leaving a path of destruction from just north of Carrier Mills through the City of Harrisburg onto Southeastern Illinois College and into the Village of Ridgway. Precious lives were lost, injuries were inflicted, and homes and businesses along the tornado’s path received major damage.

Luckily, not every day in southernmost Illinois is like Leap Day 2012; however, every single day we face the unexpected. Regardless of the cause of the emergency, 911 operators and emergency services personnel throughout the region are at the “ready”, prepared to respond at a moment’s notice to ensure our loved ones receive both the transportation and treatment needed.
Therefore, there is no better time to remind the residents of southernmost Illinois that Spending Locally First ensures the ambulance will be there in the event of an emergency.
It is no secret that the State of Illinois and many of our local governments are facing huge financial challenges. While the funding mechanism for emergency services varies from county to county, many, if not all, rely on some level of local revenues (i.e. tax dollars) to fund their emergency response, whether that is the ambulance, 911, and/or emergency management.
Our rural communities are plagued by stagnant or declining revenue streams as a result of buying patterns that no longer support local businesses. This new reality is placing increased pressure on local governments and other taxing districts to provide essential services, such as emergency response. The resulting dilemma is to identify new ways to balance the budget, i.e. raising taxes, cutting expenses or a combination of the two. Either way, rural residents lose, as they either pay higher taxes and/or have fewer services available locally. One funding mechanism being utilized by many southernmost Illinois counties is the Special Retailers Occupation Tax for Public Safety or Public Facilities, which in essence, increases the local share of sales tax collected on certain retail sales to support public safety efforts.
In the simplest of terms, the more money we spend in southernmost Illinois (and the State of Illinois), the more tax dollars we will generate to support state, county, and municipal budgets, resulting in more resources to fund emergency response. Certainly, there may be “perceived” lower cost alternatives available, perhaps, just across the river in a neighboring state, but the reality is when you purchase items and pay sales taxes out of state, you are supporting their state, county, and municipal budgets, not the budgets of southernmost Illinois.
University of Illinois Extension Educator Susan Odum says, “In a nut shell, if essential public services, such as emergency services, are important to you, then shopping local SHOULD be important to you, because it provides the resources needed for response at a moment’s notice.”