BLOOMFIELD — If voters do not approve a measure to continue using local sales tax revenue to support San Juan County Emergency Management Services they will loose a citical lifesaving resource, a county official said Monday.

Linda Thompson, assistant San Juan County CEO, appeared before the Bloomfield City Council to make a case for continuing the funding.

Her message was as clear the need for funding was increasingly familiar: continue funding for emergency services.

"Once it is passed — if it is passed — this year, March 12, it will become a permanent tax," Thompson said.

"These services have vastly improved the quality of (life. It is) a very, very important tax that represents the difference between life and death," Mayor Scott Eckstein said. "I am not a fan of raising taxes, except this one."

Councilman Pat Lucero agreed: "I want to underscore what the mayor said. Public safety is imperative to this community."

And Councilman Curtis Lynch added: "We gotta have it. If you live in San Juan County and haven't used it, at some point, you will."

The gross-receipts sales tax that supports the county's 911 call center and EMS ambulance services costs the individual less than 1 cent of every $5 spent. The sales tax was implemented in 2003.

The 2013 fiscal-year budget for the call center and EMS is $8.7 million, up by nearly a million from the previous year's budget, said Marcella Brashear, the county's financial officer.

Without continuance of the tax, emergency operations would face a loss of personnel that would mean greatly reduced levels of service. The call center currently enploys 48 workers.

"With emergency calls, seconds count," Thompson said.

Emergency calls have increased 70 percent in the last decade. In 2011, 14,000 calls came into the call center. The bulk of those calls were medical at 33 percent and trauma at 23 percent.

When we call an ambulance we expect those services to be there.

We need to maintain the quality of the services by continuing the tax, Thompson said.

"The nice thing is that anyone who comes to our county and spends money — not just property owners — pays for these services, she said.

Census numbers for 2010 show the population grew nearly 15 % in San Juan County.

"As the population grows, the need for emergency services grows along with it," Thompson said. "It's absolutely critical EMS continue to be funded."