Fiscal responsibility punished by the county?
After sitting through what seem to be never-ending budget sessions of the Jefferson County Commission, it appears that the departments and “component units” of the county who have managed their money well are being hit the hardest in the budget crisis.
While no final decisions have been made on where the county plans to come up with the $3 million shortfall heading into fiscal year 2015, straw votes and voiced opinions have the five commissioners taking large percentages from areas of fire and EMS services, parks and all nonprofits who had once received donations from the county.
On the EMS and fire side, public safety and response times to those needing medical and fire service could be at risk. The fact that the fire companies are financially sound as volunteer companies seems to be a bad thing to county officials. The finance director for the county informed commissioners that the volunteer companies are more fiscally sound according to their collective tax records than the county. We say, good for them! They have worked to raise funds and have saved said funds for the potential purchase of new equipment and other needs.
These groups have no paid positions. They stand in the street on “boot drives” and work countless hours of bingo to help raise funds needed to provide consistent service to the county. They stir apple butter and flip pancakes and scrimp and save to be fiscally sound and yet, the implication is that they should somehow be faulted for that.
The JCESA leadership echoed that sentiment just a bit by saying that the volunteer companies do not share revenue from ambulance runs submitted to insurance companies. Agreed, there needs to be some share done if the paid EMS staff is on the ambulance call. However, Commission President Walt Pellish’s call for a 50-50 split is too high. A more bearable split would be 60-40 or even less. The county has set the salary of those paid providers, not the volunteer companies. The volunteers run their ambulance, with their supplies, fuel, etc. to calls. The insurance billing helps cover those costs.
Rather than taking from those who work hard to bring in funding, the county needs to look a little more closely at waste within the government itself, including any overstaffing in various departments and at salaries that are often way too high.