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Suwannee County Discusses Budget and EMS Service

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  • Suwannee County Discusses Budget and EMS Service


    County Coordinator talks about Budget and EMS

    By George Petrena, News Correspondent
    Suwannee County Coordinator Johnny Wooley was on the agenda, and appeared before the Branford Town Council at last Tuesday's meeting. He was there to present views concerning the budget, and loss of revenues from the state and the crunch on EMS, concerning revenues.

    Wooley said, "I am here from an informational standpoint. As you are all aware, we are approaching budget time, and we have to adopt the county budget. County taxes, are at last year's assessments, as they are at 9.7 and the highest they can go is a l0 cap. Due to the last legislative session there was a lot of robbing of trust funds, and other losses, that won't be available next year. You all have seen a trend in the industry as far as increase in costs for insurance. Workmen's compensation, liability, etc. costs will be eaten up by any increase in capping the taxes for the county. The higher increase for service is in EMS, an issue that we have to address. The last several years, a revenue source was determined, but the use of EMS assessment as advalorum, was ruled by the court that counteracted it.

    EMS cannot be used as a non advalorum assessment. That revenue mechanism left. As I can see we will have to cut services or find a new revenue source. I am not here to tell you that will happen, but this is what the county is facing.

    The problem as I see it is that the problem is growing faster with more and more EMS calls. Not in Branford or Live Oak, but in the county. We have two units, one in Branford and the other in Live Oak, when there is an overload on Live Oak, the Branford unit sits in McAlpin.

    Nobody can predict when you will get calls. Public safety is an issue that the government has to fund. Contractually you found that with the police department, it was better and cheaper for you to contract with the Suwannee County Sheriff's office. I'm not telling you that this is what should be done with EMS. I'm telling you that this is a possibility, I cannot tell you what the five county commissioners will do. We have four open paramedic positions that we have been unable to fill because our salary structure is lower than any four or five counties around us. Any paramedics coming out of school will go where they can get the most money.

    We have to adjust our salary to attract paramedics. You are seeing a lot of people who are leaving the government after 20 or 25 years, and having a hard time replacing them.

    Unfortunately, some places offer higher wages but no benefits. And these young people are concerned with what they take home to pay their car payments and house payments.

    We've had several of our people go with private ambulance making a lot more money, but no benefits, and they are not concerned with benefits at this point. Unfortunately this is causing some management service problems.

    We have a lot of indigent care. If they don't have insurance, or money, we have to write off the debt.

    I've had this same conversation with Live Oak. There is the option of cutting the service level. "We don't get the service level you get in Live Oak," said Council president Joe Pete Cannon. "I've seen the ambulance at Reddy Freddy which is 5 miles south of Live Oak." Wooley said, "The county residents could say the same thing, because the ambulances are set in Live Oak and Branford."

    "We are basically running two crews in Live Oak," said Wooley. "We just got approval for a grant for a new ambulance, but ours is operational problems, not having the personnel. The ambulance is just a tool. We are not hiring paramedics, and the EMS, are paired up with a paramedic. There are two ways, the board must raise the pay to hire paramedics, or they could look at how we can cut our services."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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