Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas EMS reduces costs, but taxpayers will pay more

The county's paramedics are going to operate on less money next year, but taxpayers will be paying more for emergency medical services.

Odd? That's because while the 18 fire rescue departments have reduced costs, the county will raise the EMS tax by an average 41 percent to build reserves and help plug a budget deficit.

The EMS system is facing a $16 million shortfall in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 and an additional anticipated $3.1 million shortfall during the 2012-13 fiscal year, primarily because of falling property values. If nothing is done, the deficit could cripple the EMS system by 2013, Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala said. The complete formula for avoiding bankruptcy and establishing long-term financial health is the tax increase, plus cost cutting, plus the implementation of a proposal to change the way the EMS system is funded.

LaSala wants to increase the EMS tax rate by about $0.24 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable value. That's about a 41 percent increase. That's a bit less than the 46 percent increase LaSala projected earlier this year.

Currently, EMS taxes on a home with an assessed, taxable property value of $150,000 and $50,000 in homestead exemptions are about $58.32 per year. If LaSala's recommendation passes, the owner of that home would pay about $24 more per year, or about $82.32.

The most recent county figures show that the 18 cities and fire districts that provide EMS will receive about $230,894 less from property tax money than they did this year. That's about a 0.6 percent drop in costs.

That's less than the 5 percent overall increase in costs projected when the cities and districts submitted their requests a few weeks ago.

The differences came in part from tighter county scrutiny of personnel and spending.

One example of the tighter oversight came with the budget for Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue. When the budgets were first submitted to the county, Pinellas Suncoast asked for $784,352 for the 2011-12 fiscal year, an increase of $238,366 over the current budget.

"We've been going back and forth over those numbers," Pinellas Suncoast Chief Robert Polk said. "The question for us revolved around officers."

The county believed it should not have to pay for a paramedic lieutenant but only for a paramedic/firefighter. The county held firm, and Pinellas Suncoast will receive only a $42,980 increase for the coming year.

The county also audited the individual EMS budgets. In some cases, they found county EMS money that had not been spent, or that was being held until it accumulated enough to buy equipment. The county let the individual districts keep that money, but deducted it from the amount they will receive from property taxes next year.

That happened with the Lealman Fire District. That district had negotiated concessions from its fire union, enabling Lealman to end the year with money left over, Chief Rick Graham said.

Rather than take back the money, the county used it to offset what Lealman would have gotten from property taxes next year. The result is that Lealman looks as if it has taken a $540,367 hit in the budget. But that's just the taxpayers' savings.

Cities and districts can expect closer scrutiny of spending to get harsher.

"Each time, we're toughening this up," said Craig Hare, the county's EMS division manager.

The Sunstar ambulance system will not be affected by the tax proposal. User fees fund that part of the EMS system.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Agency EMS budget request fiscal year 2011-12

Fiscal Year 2010-11 total budgetFiscal Year 2011-12

budget submission*
Variance

difference
Variance

percentage
Clearwater$5,057,389$5,032,611 -$24,778-0.49
Dunedin$1,244,027$1,270,766 $26,739 2.15
East Lake$1,219,143$1,238,616 $19,473 1.60
Gulfport$415,210$390,154 -$25,056-6.03
Largo$3,530,475$3,702,627 $172,152 4.88
Largo for Belleair Bluffs$420,249$445,492 $25,243 6.01
Lealman$1,687,571$1,251,801 -$435,770-25.82
Lealman for Tierra Verde$423,658$319,061 -$104,597-24.69
Madeira Beach$360,053$340,835 -$19,218-5.34
Oldsmar$382,075$384,248 $2,173 0.57
Palm Harbor$1,799,159$1,826,786 $27,627 1.54
Pinellas Park$2,786,675$2,845,271 $58,596 2.10
Pinellas Suncoast$545,986$588,966 $42,980 7.87
Safety Harbor$904,683$845,918 -$58,765-6.50
Seminole$2,027,856$2,058,591 $30,735 1.52
South Pasadena$682,560$712,569 $30,009 4.40
St. Pete Beach$1,101,575$1,216,072 $114,497 10.39
St. Petersburg$12,544,738$12,414,148 -$130,590-1.04
Tarpon Springs$893,739$884,094 -$9,645-1.08
Treasure Island$368,536$395,837 $27,301 7.41
TOTAL$38,395,357$38,164,463 -$230,894-0.60

* Includes any FY2009-10 unexpended EMS funds identified in the FY2009-10 audit adjustment. Source: Pinellas County EMS

Pinellas EMS reduces costs, but taxpayers will pay more 07/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 5:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]
  2. Vision Zero plan to make Hillsborough roads safer to be unveiled

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Vision Zero, the coalition trying to make Hillsborough County safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, is set to unveil its action plan on Tuesday morning.

    Members of the Vision Zero workshop cross Hillsborough Avenue and Kelly Road during a on-street audit of Town 'N Country roads in January. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  3. Pasco EDC names business incubator head in Dade City, will open second site

    Business

    Pasco County economic development officials are busy reigniting their business start-up resources following the departure earlier this year of Krista Covey, who ran the Pasco Economic Development Council's SMARTStart business incubator in Dade City.

    Andrew Romaner was promoted this summer to serve as program director of the Dade City SMARTStart Entrepreneur Center, a start-up incubator service of the Pasco Economic Development Council. He succeeds Krista Covey, who relocated to Texas for another startup position. [Courtesy of Pasco EDC]
  4. What you need to know for Tuesday, Aug. 22

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, center, attends a hearing on Monday Circuit Court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater. The hearing was requested by attorneys representing John Houde, left, who filed a motion to invalidate the sale of a $458,000 Redington Beach condo, a deal orchestrated by Skelton, who stands accused of deliberately misleading bidders in a the June 8 foreclosure auction. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  5. Sarasota GOP names Dick Cheney 'Statesman of the Year'

    Blogs

    Former Vice President Dick Cheney will be honored as "Statesman of Year" by the Sarasota GOP, a title that twice went to Donald Trump.

    Dick and Liz Cheney