By DAVID GREEN
The Morenci Area EMS is faring better than ever in keeping its budget in line, reported coordinator Larry Weeks, but that doesn’t leave much money for ambulance replacement.
The EMS board is proposing a 10 percent increase in the assessment, with the additional cash placed in a fund for a new ambulance.
“We’ve done fairly well this year,” Weeks said. “We’re continuing to cut costs and use money wisely, but we cannot save enough to buy an ambulance.”
The 2003 primary ambulance has traveled 91,000 miles and the backup unit—a 1997 vehicle—has 153,000 miles of use. The 2003 model will paid off in January 2013.
Ambulance services typically use a unit for five years as the primary vehicle, then another five years as the secondary one. In areas with lower milage, such as Morenci’s situation, a vehicle may be used for 15 years. Weeks figures Morenci’s backup unit will reach 15 years before it is retire.
A 10 percent increase would cost Morenci residents and those from Seneca and Medina townships an additional $8.25 a year and $5.50 for apartment buildings and duplexes. The increase would bring in about $15,000 annually for ambulance replacement. A new vehicle costs from $120,000 to $150,000.
The increase for Morenci residents could be softened if council votes to pay off the sewer project bond early. That would reduce the tax bill by $120.
Weeks said there’s still confusion about how the ambulance service is funded. About half of the revenue comes from assessments and the other half from billing for services, either to insurance companies or directly to the user of the service.
“The special assessment only assures that the service is available,” he said, and is far short of covering the costs.
That’s why residents are billed when an ambulance is called. The cost typically varies between $500 and $1,200, depending on the service given.
Many communities fund the ambulance service through a millage that covers the majority of costs. Morenci’s system places less of the cost on taxpayers and more on the user.
Although Weeks is proud of how he and staff members have found ways to cut costs—this is the first budget year when borrowing wasn’t needed—he has concerns about finances due to the economy.
“Revenues are anticipated to decline due to high levels of unemployment and reduced health insurance benefits to so many people,” he said.
He will begin exploring grant possibilities to cover the cost of a new ambulance, but failing that, an increase in the assessment is the only option.