At least one Glasgow City Council member believes the city should be paying less and Barren County Fiscal Court should be paying more of what it takes to keep Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Medical Services going.
At the regular meeting of the council’s finance committee last week, the committee started its process of considering next year’s budget, hearing from three department heads with their goals and having Mayor Rhonda Riherd Trautman mention a few miscellaneous items that would need consideration.
As those discussions concluded, Councilman Wendell Honeycutt said, “I’m going to show y’all something I don’t think’s fair.”
With estimated population numbers rounded to 48,000 in the county and 14,000 to city, and using a random rounded number of $250,000, he demonstrated the math he was using on a write-on, wipe-off board in the conference room where the finance committee regularly meets adjacent to City Council Chambers.
Mayor Trautman said later the deficit has averaged around $1 million in recent years.
By Honeycutt’s calculations, the city pays more than four times per person – than the county with the current split of money going to cover the deficit of the ambulance service’s budget that its billing revenue doesn’t cover.
The City of Glasgow and Barren County Fiscal Court each pay 30 percent of the EMS deficit, and T.J. Samson Community Hospital and Metcalfe County Fiscal Court each pay 20 percent. The money for Metcalfe County’s share comes from a special tax imposed only in that county. Barren County does not have such a tax, although ambulance service director Mike Swift has advocated for one to ensure a dedicated revenue stream.
Earlier this month, Swift asked his board to consider allowing him to add another daytime shift to cover the busiest times, and the discussion was tabled until the next meeting, but not before the board members expressed budget concerns over being able to grant his request.
Councilman Harold “M.D.” Armstrong pointed his fellow committee members to the percentage the hospital pays.
“Sixty percent of the city goes to the T.J. Samson Hospital, and look how much they pay, if you want to take it the whole length. They benefit more than anybody in the county, T.J. Samson does,” he said, adding that the majority of transports are T.J. patients.
Honeycutt said he wasn’t sure exactly what kind of split would be fair, but it needs to be evaluated.
“To me, anything over two times as much is not fair, and I’m not sure two times as much is fair,” Honeycutt said. “We need to talk with county government about reallocating this based on population some way, and we need to do it now. I’m tired of us paying for everything and not being able to give our employees raises, and we’re struggling with budget issues. They’re giving their employees raises every year. Let them contribute more of a fair share. This isn’t the only thing the city’s paying more than their fair share of. We do need to contribute. We need to work together, but not at that price.”
He said the discussions need to take place before either government entity gets very far into its budget process for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Honeycutt said he thought it would be fine if the ambulance service stopped doing nonemergency transports, e.g. from a nursing home to and from a doctor’s appointment, and getting a private firm to do it.
He and the mayor acknowledged that a good chunk of the service’s billing revenue comes from nonemergency runs, but at the same time, they said, it creates more operating expense. The mayor also said when the four entities first agreed to split their payments this way, the population may have been closer to half in the city and half in the county, but the population has shifted toward the county more in recent years.
Armstrong anticipated part of the county’s response would be that most of the ambulance center’s runs are in the city limits, but Honeycutt said it costs less to make a run in the city than out in the county.
Honeycutt said perhaps the change could take place over a two-year period rather than all at once.
Committee Chairman Jim Marion said members of his committee should meet with a committee of fiscal court that is most appropriate.
“We don’t want any grandstanding that affects this particular point of view,” Marion said.
After the meeting, Trautman spoke with Judge-Executive Davie Greer, and they arranged a joint meeting between Fiscal Court’s newly appointed ambulance service finance committee and the city council’s finance committee.
The meeting is set for 4 p.m. Monday at the Barren County judge-executive’s office.
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