Adjusted budget formula for ambulance billing could reallocate $200,000; fees will stay the same

by mike lesko | Reporter Published:

Streetsboro -- A change in the funding formula for the way ambulance billing payments are used could reallocate about $200,000, according to Finance Director Jenny Esarey.

City Council could make that change as part of its 2014 budget process, which was discussed at a special work session March 1 at City Hall. The budget must be approved by Council by March 31.

"We are redistributing the funding," Esarey said. "But we're not looking to raise ambulance fees. Those are staying exactly the same."

Currently, 40 percent of the money in the ambulance fund goes to the city's general fund, while 60 percent goes toward buying items like new fire equipment. If the change goes into effect, 92 percent of the money in the ambulance fund would go to the general fund, while 8 percent would be used for fire equipment.

In 2013, the city's fire equipment fund received about $281,000. This year, the city administration is recommending to Council about $75,000. That would be a cut of about $200,000 from what it was in each of the last three years.

Esarey said the carryover balance in the ambulance fund is about $503,000.

Council member Steve Michniak said, "It seemed like there was enough in [the ambulance fund] to do this."

Fire Chief Robert Reinholz agreed, saying, "I'm fine [with the budget adjustment]. I can stick with my 10-year [financial] projection [for replacing fire vehicles], even with the money taken out [this year]. We can put that money into the city for the next 10 months."

Reinholz stressed, though, that if the formula change continued after this year, it could have "an effect."

"The reason for that money is to pay cash for all future capital improvements," Reinholz told Council. "We're cutting really far back for this year's budget, but I can't do this next year, or else you'll have to decide how efficient you want [the fire department] to be. We're trying to replace a little [bit of fire equipment] each year."

Council member Tim Claypoole said he does not support cutting the ambulance fund.

"It is important to have adequate funding for our safety services," Claypoole said. "I would like to keep it the same to make sure we have adequate funding."

Esarey said the 60/40 split would be in effect for January and February of 2014, then the 92/8 split would be in effect from March through December. The 10-month change would automatically revert back to a 60/40 split on Jan. 1, 2015.

Because the first two months of 2014 would not be included in the 92/8 split, the actual 10-month split would be 83/17, with 83 percent of the ambulance fund money going into the general fund and 17 percent toward fire vehicle purchases, Esarey said.

The city's proposed budget is $22.2 million; the general fund budget is $11.127 million; and the capital improvement budget is $2.59 million.

"This is a fiscally responsible budget," Mayor Glenn Broska said. "Once we get past this economic downturn, Streetsboro is set to have another resurgence."

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9439

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