By Beth Christian Broschart
Tucker County Commissioners refused to take action on a request for additional money for the Tucker County Ambulance Authority during an emergency meeting Friday morning.
Bobby Phillips, Ambulance Authority member, asked commissioners to help fund the Ambulance Authority based on a budget that had not yet been approved by members of the Authority board.
The emergency meeting was scheduled following the Tucker County Commission's regular meeting Wednesday. During that meeting, Ambulance Authority officials rejected several proposals by commissioners, including the county's offer of $40,000 above current funding levels.
During Wednesday's meeting, Ambulance Authority representative Larry Armbruster said the Ambulance Authority had a deficit of approximately $96,000 in their planned budget for the next fiscal year.
On Friday, Commissioner Mike Rosenau said Phillips presented commissioners with a reworked proposed budget before the emergency meeting.
"This has been presented as a balanced budget," Rosenau said. "Would you care to explain the budget?"
Phillips said he met with Sheila Marsh and Shirley Plum to rework the budget for the Ambulance Authority. Rosenau asked where the cuts were made. Phillips deferred to Plum to speak.
"Most of it was cut from the insurance portion of the budget," Plum said. "At the time the original budget was presented, they were saying anyone with 25 or more employees who worked more than 30 hours per week, (their) employers would need to pay a portion of their insurance costs. (Tucker County Prosecuting Attorney) Ray LaMora advised me yesterday they have raised that number to 50. This budget was originally completed in March."
Rosenau asked what other cuts were made to bring the proposed budget into balance.
Plum said the Ambulance Authority cut back $2,000 on utilities, $3,000 on ground maintenance, $4,000 for maintenance and repair of equipment, $3,200 in rent, $6,000 on Workers Compensation, $3,050 in employee benefits and $8,000 in inventory expenses. She said she adjusted income by $8,000 in grants and ambulance fees.
Plum said she also "bumped up" the funds from the Tucker County Commission following a meeting she had with Commissioner Lowell Moore and LaMora.
LaMora clarified the perimeters of that meeting.
"We sat down, and we were trying to figure out options we could do to help balance their budget," LaMora said. "Kind of like what we talked about in the other commission meeting."
Phillips said they cannot cut back $4,000 on maintenance because the safety of the patients comes first.
Commissioner Diane Hinkle asked how the Ambulance Authority was able to cut back $8,000 on inventory.
"Patient supplies is where we will make the cuts," Plum replied. "I looked at the end of our (current) budget and we had only went through 25 percent, so I cut it partially."
Rosenau asked if the proposed budget included a 24-hour shift. Marsh said the budget will include a second 24-hour crew.
"The state requires that we have 24-hour coverage," Marsh said.
Phillips apologized to commission members for what he called a misunderstanding Wednesday night.
"When we came back in the second time (at the Wednesday meeting), and discussed closing Station 2, that it was not meant to be a threat or anything like that," Phillips said. "It was actually a legitimate expenditure that we can eliminate. We can save $12,000 alone on utilities.
"Station 2 could still be in existence after 2014 if that building on Route 93 materializes," Phillips said. "Then Station 2 would come back to the Thomas and Davis area. So this would be a temporary closure because with Corridor H there is going to be a great deal of traffic coming from that area."
Rosenau asked Phillips if the proposed budget was approved by the Ambulance Authority.
"It is a proposed budget," Phillips replied.
Rosenau said the reason for Friday's meeting is not to deal with the Ambulance Authority budget, but to see how much money the County Commission is being asked for.
"About $195,000," Phillips replied. "This will include the $175,000 you are giving to us, plus a pay raise for the employees."
Rosenau asked if the budget has been reviewed by members of the Ambulance Authority.
"No," Phillips replied. "We explained that to you on Wednesday."
The next Tucker County Ambulance Authority meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday.
"So this proposed budget is really just a worksheet," Rosenau asked.
"We cannot finalize this budget until we find out how much you are going to give us," Phillips added.
"You cannot finalize this budget until it goes to the board and they see what they have," Rosenau said.
"But if you give us the initial $40,000, we can go to the board and tell them we have enough money," Phillips said.
"We cannot take any action on this because this (proposed budget) is just a worksheet," Rosenau said. "We cannot do anything until their board meets and approves a budget."
"How can we say, here's you some money?" Rosenau asked.
LaMora said what the Ambulance Authority needs is a budget.
"It should show what you need in excess from the Tucker County Commission," LaMora said. "Once you get that and it's approved, you are good. You have a working budget for the year and you are requesting some additional money from the Commission."
Commissioners asked County Clerk Sherry Simmons to put the Ambulance Authority on the agenda for the next County Commission meeting, set for July 10.