GREENWOOD — County Council is considering a significant jump in the fee for emergency and non-emergency transports.
Emergency Management Director Derek Kinney met with council members Tuesday afternoon during the administration and finance committee meeting to discuss the proposed FY 2014 Emergency Medical Service budget, which includes an increase in the user fee from $11 to $15.98.
Kinney said it has been at least five years since the fee was increased. He said the increase would put Greenwood more in line with what other county EMS agencies are charging.
If council approves the increase as part of the county budget, the revenue generated would allow for the replacement of at least one and perhaps a second box ambulance with high mileage, Kinney said.
Council member Steve Brown said, “My concern is for the working person… If we go up on the rates, eventually premiums will go up.” He pointed out that collection rates, according to a recent study, are better than 90 percent for those covered by Medicare or Medicaid, 71 percent for private insurance and 7.8 percent for those with no insurance, which Kinney confirmed.
“I can’t recall the last time I got a phone call (complaining) about bills,” Kinney said.
Council member Chuck Moates said by raising the rate, the cost will be incurred by users, not taxpayers.
EMS receives a subsidy from the county each year that is generated by a special appropriations millage. The agency is proposing receiving $805,000 in 2013-14, which is down from the $920,000 appropriated for the current year.
Kinney said after the meeting that the agency is attempting to create a better balance between taxpayer dollars utilized by EMS and user fee dollars.
Brown said although he questioned Kinney about the budget and the fee increase, “I don’t question the quality of service you’re providing… You’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
Kinney said the agency is attempting to increase its non-emergency transport service, but told council that it is a “volatile, highly competitive” business.
County Manager Toby Chappell said council is inviting a number of county department heads to discuss their proposed budgets, particularly those requesting significant changes to their budgets.
The county fiscal year runs from July 1-June 30.
In other business, council heard a presentation concerning the “Role of Council,” by Robert Croom, deputy general counsel for the S.C. Association of Counties. The session was requested by Council Chairman Mark Allison in an effort to inform new and current members of council.
Croom said Greenwood is one of only two counties in the state with a council-manager form of government.
“The real difference in your form of government is you have an appointed treasurer and auditor,” Croom said. “You are the legislative body of this county. You set policy, levy taxes and do the budget.”
He said the chief administrative officer is the manager, who functions in the executive branch role in local government.
Croom recommended that council members function cooperatively with other elected officials in the county. “Some administrators and councils have had rocky relationships with elected officials,” he said. “It requires give and take on both sides for it to work.”
He encouraged council to “speak with one voice” to the public and attempt to reach consensus whenever possible.
“Goodwill goes a long way,” Croom said.
He offered other tips to council in the area of parliamentary procedure, interaction and response to constituents, and limiting length of meetings.