Brennan:Show me the need

Given an analytical mind at birth (how else can you explain it), it was only logical to use it to determine whether San Juan Island EMS (SJIEMS) ‘needed’ a 42% increase in property tax revenue to begin two years before the current 6 year levy expires.

Although I am not from Missouri, I decided to start by looking at the current 2014 budget to see if the numbers would ‘show me the need’.

Is the current year budget balanced?

Yes, the budgeted expenditures are less than the budgeted income. It budgets a $553,998 excess of revenues over expenditures. The SJIEMS 2014 budget points out that there is over $1 Million of total available cash. In fact, the prior 4 years actual figures showed income exceeded expenditures. I am looking for that ‘need’.

Is the current 2014 budget in line with 2010 actual expenditures, given the knowledge there was a real estate downturn that began in 2008?

No. The total expenditures for 2014 are budgeted to be 146% greater than 2010 (the last levy passed). During that period, other county departments were experiencing budget cuts, taking 0% COLA, furlough days, and leaving retired positions empty while SJIEMS was actually increasing their number of full time administration personnel/paramedics and taking an increase in salaries, some as great as 31%.

(The EMTs that respond to EMS calls only receive a fixed stipend and are not considered administrative personnel.) Incidentally, this 146% does not include the $2Million bond that was issued to pay for the new building in 2012. Also worthy of note, the building is not used for patient care and few tax payers step foot in the doors.

Did the number of EMS responses increase/decrease in proportion to the increase/decrease in expenditures?

No. The increase in expenditures went up 4 times the rate of EMS responses from 2010 to 2014 (projected). In addition to that, the number of annual responses has decreased since the opening of the new 24 hour Emergency Room and Hospital in 2012.

Is the alliance with Island Air Ambulance (IAA) a financial drain on the SJIEMS system?

No. Looking at the figures from SJIEMS, IAA is profitable. I am still looking for the ‘need’.

Does SJIEMS need the increase in tax revenue to buy a new ambulance or building?

No. The current EMS building is 2 years old and the old building was sold this year for $568,000. There is a 2014 budgeted expenditure line item called ‘general reserve’ of $553,998. This reserve normally is a capital reserve (assets). This budgeted reserve is more than enough for at least 2 ambulances fully equipped. Do you see a ‘need’ yet?

How does SJIEMS annual budgeted tax revenue and expenditures compare with Orcas Island Fire & Rescue budget for 2014?

Orcas Island Fire & Rescue operates on a budget that is just over one half of SJIEMS, and Orcas is both Fire & EMS. Orcas Island Fire & Rescue property tax revenue has increased only 6% since 2010 (SJIEMS property tax revenue from the levy is 12% greater). Orcas expenditures have risen 16% (as compared with SJIEMS 146%). San Juan Island EMS does not share a levy with the Fire Department. The San Juan Fire Department has a separate levy, in addition to SJIEMS levy.

Analytically, these figures do not ‘show me the need’ for a 42% levy increase. Why not wait and see how the next two years go. Real Estate values are on the rise again and that alone will give SJIEMS more tax revenues to spend. Let’s say no to this 42% levy increase.

Leslie Brennan

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