Say no for now to EMS Levy

The ballot measure for the SJ EMS levy is not a referendum on how much the community appreciates the excellent service provided by the award-winning organization. Instead it is a questionable request for higher taxes presented using bad math.

Undoubtedly, San Juan Emergency Medical Services would receive an A+ for the outstanding job staff and volunteers do in responding to medical emergencies, transporting patients, educating the public and providing safety equipment (car seats and bike helmets).

As for math, the organization would have to repeat the class. 

The careless way projections in tax revenue were created, the errors in basic computations, the faulty comparisons have led to a muddled picture of what amount of tax revenue is really needed.

The current levy has two more years to go. That gives plenty of time for a substantive review of the financial status of the organization and establishment of responsible oversight. It would also give time for a discussion  about what the community needs in medevac services. 

After that is done, it makes sense for SJ EMS to ask voters for a permanent levy which would give the organization the advantage of stable financing. 

With all of the questions about a 42 percent increase in the levy  and all of the unknowns about other income, it would be irresponsible to approve the ballot measure at this time.

These are a few of the concerns raised by the request for a higher levy. 

66 % INCREASE in ADMINISTRATION SALARIES 2010-2013 

The administration costs for salary increased from $261,292 in 2011 to $437, 855 in 2013. This is just the administrative staff. It does not include the salaries for paramedics or the EMT stipends or the three flight nurses' salaries. 

The chart below, listing the actual budget figures for 2010-2013 and the budgeted amounts for 2014, shows the increase from 2010 to 2014.  The last year of the previous levy was 2010.  The current six-year levy has two more years to run. 

Year Property taxes received TOTAL Revenue- Taxes and Income  Expenses

 Admin 

salaries

2014  963,142  3,836,278  3,282,280  433,855
 2013 983,030  3,875,587  3,482,892  437,300
 2012* 1,197,261  *5,837,484  5,366,245  408,846
2011  1,240,443  2,414,914  1,902,596  270,636
 2010 869,171  1,592,938 1,336,862 146,621 

 * 2012 includes the $2 million for the  new building.

The increased administrative costs are due to the substantial raises and the addition of positions. In the rebuttal to comments about the large increase for the Chief's position, Hospital District Commissioner J. Michael Edwards wrote, "The Chief’s salary was $99,000 in 2010 after both a pay cut and no raises in prior years.

That is not accurate. The salary in 2007 was $89,628; in 2008 $98,006; in 2009 $102,786. 

Unfortunately this is just one example of inaccurate information. The 2014 budget lists a pay cut of 5 percent for the chief. It is actually 1.5 percent. 

  

 ADMINISTRATION POSITIONS
position  2010 2014
Chief  99,000  123,500

Admin

Assistant

 50,600  69,000

Outreach

Coordinator

 50,000  59,756

Operations Manager  

in 2013

Facilities manager

in 2010

 36,000  59,000

Logistics

Coordinator

hired in 2012

   48,479

Superintendent

Hired in 2013

   47,499

 *The superintendent works for and is paid by the hospital district and is paid by it.

Those are a couple of examples. Some of the other examples of poor math relate to the "tax loss". 

TAX LOSS:  The campaign literature for the levy ballot measure refers to tax loss which is the amount of tax revenue EMS did not receive due to the declining property values.

SJ EMS's projections of taxes that could be collected are incorrect and were based on their decision to include an increase of 4 percent each year.

Besides being inaccurate, the amounts weren't adjusted after the property values came in lower than EMS expected. Saying they lost something they never could have had is misleading. 

The chart below shows the actual tax revenue received by SJ EMS and the amount that could have been collected if property values hadn't dropped. The figures were provided by the county Assessor. SJ EMS says they lost  $1,451,440 in 2011-2014.

The difference between what was collected and what could have been collected is actually $671,368.

 

 Property  tax collected

(Data from county Assessor)

Amount that could have been collected if property values hadn't decreased

(Data from county Assessor) 

Difference of tax revenue that could have been collected and amount that was collected

SJ EMS's estimate of tax revenue 

Tax loss  Difference between SJ EMS estimates and actual tax revenue

 2014  963,142  1,309,921  (326,780)  1,543,093  (579,951)
 2013  983,030   1,271,772  (288,692)  1,483,743 (500,713)
 2012  1,197,261  1,248,568   (51,307)  1,426,676  (229,415)
 2011  1,230,443  1,226,355    (4,088)  1,371,804  (141,361)
 TOTAL 2011-2014   

 $4,373,876 

 $5,045,244   (671,368)   $5,825,316  (1,451,440)
 2010  869,171  868,670 501    

EMS Chart Tax Loss Chart

 

No one is accusing anyone on the hospital board of in SJ EMS of doing anything untoward. But in light of the sloppy tallying and the greatly increased costs voters need to take a hard look at what they are voting on.

It is a 42 percent increase in a levy. It is not a vote on how good SJ EMS staff and volunteers are.

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