In June 4 IssueBy Kim GrahamNews-Register Reporter
The Russell County Ambulance Board unanimously approved a $1.3 million Fiscal Year 2011 - 2012 budget at a special called meeting last Wednesday.
"The biggest change (to the budget) from last year is not having 911 Dispatch," Russell County EMS Director Terry Hancock said.
"We made some cuts and reduced our budget by about $320,000."
He said taxes were down this year from previous years but overall revenues from service charges increased.
"We've had a 20 percent increase in revenue since contracting our billing with EMS Consultants, LTD in June of 2010," said Hancock. "We're hoping for additional revenue increases from collecting outstanding debts through contracting with collection agency IC Systems, Inc."
Still, like many businesses in a down economy, Russell County EMS is losing revenue and facing possible cuts down the road.
"Our income is decreasing and our expenses are increasing," said RC Ambulance Board Chairman James Gray.
He said rising gas prices and higher personnel insurance costs will take a toll in managing EMS services.
There is also a growing trend of nonpayment due to job loss and uninsured or underinsured patients that may be uncollectable Gray said.
Uncertainty about changes to Medicaid and Medicare are also a concern for maintaining the service.
"Congress is talking about redoing Medicaid and Medicare," said Gray. "If they do that, it will have a huge negative impact on EMS income."
Gray is also apprehensive about the lasting impact of the amount of debt EMS is responsible to remit.
"We were left with a huge debt as a result of 911 Dispatch and having to pay that off," said Gray. "That $150,000 debt will hold the ambulance service back for years to come."