Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 150
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for August 1, 2002

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

One side is setting a walk-out date and the other is stonewalling. Sounds like Major League Baseball? Nope, it’s the ambulance situation in Johnson County. Warrensburg, which serves 2/3 of the county, wants an agreement by the 12th or they’ll walk out of the business entirely on November 30th. The Ambulance Board wants to hire someone for $50,000 a year. Doesn’t sound like they’re talking the same language.

Let’s look at the proposal Warrensburg put forward: They want $15,000 a month plus actual net operating cost. Per their operating budget for the year ending this September, Warrensburg’s ambulance service proposed to spend $829,085 with estimated receipts at $498,350. That’s an expected loss of about $330,000. Based on these figures, the ambulance district would pay Warrensburg a little over $500,000 per year for the eastern 2/3 of the county. This, of course, doesn’t account for expected decreases in Medicare reimbursements, which would push the operating deficit higher, nor for the increased cost to extend the operation county-wide. However, it seems clear that under Warrensburg’s proposal there would be plenty of money left to obtain new equipment.

However, the Ambulance Board seems bound and determined to bring in replacement players whether immediately or in the long run. To run a 5-ambulance operation county wide, they’d have to have somewhere around 30 positions (at a minimum). Assuming a wage of around $25,000 (which may be low) and a labor burden (FICA, FUTA, SUTA, health, etc.) at a laughably conservative 20% (Warrensburg’s is about 30%), direct labor would be at least $900,000. Then there’d be supervision (already at least $50,000), administrative costs, etc. Even offset by reimbursements, the costs don’t show up any better than Warrensburg’s proposal.

I worry that the Ambulance Board’s decision process may be discolored by a visceral dislike for the City of Warrensburg. The board districts themselves were skewed to deny Warrensburg residents representation equivalent to their population, in clear violation of state law. Warrensburg’s proposal doesn’t make it whole from the losses it has sustained in the past, but it does relieve the city of the financial burden it has labored under, due in part to the mistaken optimism of a former city employee.

If the ambulance district goes forward with its apparent intent to create a self-operated service from the whole cloth, it will be watched. Knowing what the financial alternatives are, voters would be hard to convince of possible increases if the district finds it can’t operate within the money we’ve already given them.

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