County approves plan to outsource EMS

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Budget decision aims to save county more than $2.5M in 2019

By Cheri Harris

Gadsden County is outsourcing EMS starting in 2019.

During the Gadsden County Commission’s third special budget meeting Aug. 14, commissioners voted 3-2 to make the change to save costs, with commissioners Brenda Holt and Eric Hinson casting dissenting votes.

In discussion before the vote, Dee Jackson, interim county administrator, presented commissioners with a plan for a balanced budget that included outsourcing EMS, based on preliminary research.

The current fiscal year showed billing of $6,075,000, with write-offs of $4 million, leaving the county to fund $3.06 million

The preliminary budget for FY 2018-19 includes $1.18 million for EMS, with $520,000 allocated to outsource EMS for all of 2019 and $648,000 to operate the existing EMS service for the end of 2018 to allow time for the county to request bids, award the contract in September and have the new EMS vendor in place by Jan. 1.

Jackson compared the need for outsourcing to needing new shoes when the lights are about to be turned off.

“We’ve got to make some cuts,” she said.

Before the vote to outsource EMS, commissioners voted 5-0 to stipulate that the county money for Gadsden County Senior Services is dedicated to activities for the seniors, and voted 3-2 to restore $50,000 in emergency housing repairs, which had been cut from the budget, though Jackson said she was working with a consultant to find another source of funding for that item.

“Now you have to go and find the $50,000,” Holt said after the vote. She and Morgan cast dissenting votes.

The tentative budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year of $19,417,000 includes roughly $12.3 million in ad valorem property tax revenue. The millage rate for 2019 did not increase;  however, assessed value of taxable property countywide did increase, due in large part to new construction, according to Reginald Cunningham, the county’s property appraiser.

The first public hearing to approve the preliminary budget will be on Sept. 6, with the final budget hearing on Sept. 14. Once the county budget is adopted, it goes to the state for final approval and no additional money can be added to the budget once it has been approved.