Rather than pursue establishing a municipal service fund similar to that used for garbage collection, the Morgan County Council would rather try to negotiate its agreement with Morgan City to provide ambulance service.
The fact that the county doesn’t receive payment for ambulance services for up to 16 months after those services are rendered makes it difficult to budget, said Morgan County Council Chairman Logan Wilde. In addition, the county is only allowed to collect what it spends on providing ambulance services, nothing more. That 16 month disconnect is particularly troubling, especially when trying to bill the city for its portion of ambulance usage.
“How do I budget when I can’t take and cushion the fund?” Wilde asked.
And with mileage creeping up on the county’s ambulance fleet, the state will be recommending Morgan County gets a new ambulance in the next two years. The current contract amounts don’t put money away for the future purchase of an ambulance, Wilde said.
“We need to start putting money away for a new ambulance,” he said.
Wilde recommended charging the city a flat fee of $22,000
The county bills the city for a third of expenditures and forwards on a third of all revenues. Long-time Councilwoman Tina Kelley said consistently since 2002, about a third of all ambulance calls come from the city.
However, Wilde said that number may decrease as Mountain Green continues to grow faster than Morgan City.
Lately the county has been billing the city about $6,000 monthly for ambulance services. However, revenues vary widely. In one month, the city was billed $6,000 for services, yet took in a revenue of $7,551.
Some council members said they would rather see revenues and expenditures figured on an annual basis rather than a monthly basis.
“Any net money at the end of the year is when we should be splitting it,” Wilde said.
In 2013, Morgan ambulance brought in $199,770 in revenue with expenses at $249,000. The difference of $49,000 split in third means the city pays about $16,000. Wilde said those numbers are preliminary and don’t account for $32,000 in grant revenues.
Wilde suggested charging the city $22,000 instead of $16,000 each year for ambulance service, in order to provide money for a future $110,000 ambulance purchase.
“The way we are doing it now is an accounting nightmare for both entities,” Councilman Robert Kilmer said. “We don’t have the budget to absorb a $110,000 vehicle.”
Morgan County Attorney Jann Farris suggested the council take the numbers to the city and try to negotiate the contract before considering a municipal service fund. The last time the city and county negotiated the ambulance contract was in 2002.
The council said a municipal service fund is not the same as a municipal service district. But Farris said it is not as simple as a new line item in a budget, either.