By Jeff Gallatin
Bay Village administration and City Council officials Monday introduced a proposal to increase fees for ambulance runs by $100 as part of the officials’ ongoing efforts to deal with a tight municipal budget in 2012.
If approved, the fee for a basic life care run would go from $450 to $550; Advanced Care I, from $550 to $650; and Advanced Care II, from $650 to $750. Officials say based on data from the previous two full years the fee has been in effect, a conservative estimate indicates the increase would bring in an additional $70,000 annually. The income is derived from the city billing insurance companies for ambulance runs. The fee took effect in late 2008 and raised $205,000 in 2009 and $189,000 in 2010, the two full years for which data are currently available.
Mayor Debbie Sutherland said Friday, when reviewing data recently in budget work, that fire Chief Chris Lyons found that Bay Village’s reimbursement rate is lower than those of surrounding communities, such as Rocky River and Fairview Park.
“Increasing it by this rate would bring us into line with what other communities are charging the insurance companies for this service,” she said. “This would only make us comparable with the others while providing us with some needed financial assistance.”
Sutherland said administration and council officials continue to try to juggle estimated revenue to maintain current city service levels while also planning for the drops in revenue, such as cuts in state funding to the local government fund and the phaseout of the estate tax to city governments, implemented by Gov. John Kasich’s administration since he took office in 2011.
‘There’s only so much cutting you can do without hurting city services for residents,” Sutherland said. “Aside from cuts, you also look for ways to increase revenue in a fair way, and this certainly would be one way you could increase that revenue stream with less impact on people.”
She said even though the city population has dropped slightly, the need for ambulance runs will remain stable or even grow.
“I think that’s a misconception by some people,” she said. “Even if our population isn’t necessarily growing, it is aging. There is a clear need for ambulance runs and their services in this and other cities.”
Finance Director Steve Presley said the proposed hike is based on the revenue previously generated from prior years.
“It’s going to depend on the number of ambulance runs, but a conservative estimate would be that it would increase annually by $70,000,” he said. “That would certainly help cut into other costs.”
Presley cited fire department overtime as one other potential area of concern, noting he has budgeted $80,000 for the year.
“I don’t know that that’s going to be enough,” he said. “But additional income from an ambulance-run-related charge would certainly help deal with costs in that area.”
City Council Finance Committee Chairman Mike Young said he sees the proposed fee hike as a viable option.
“We’re certainly going to take a look at it,” he said. “It’s a soft fee and is charged to the insurance fees above the deductible costs for people. We’re continuing to try and find ways of dealing with budget issues, like many communities.”
Young said the finance committee and council as a whole will continue to review different options as part of the budget process in coming weeks. The city is required to present a balanced budget to the state by the end of March.