Council adjusts fire, ambulance budget system

 

 

The Miles City Fire and Rescue budget will be amended — by transferring funds for four personnel from the ambulance fund to the General Fund. The measure passed after second reading of Resolution No. 3662 passed at the Miles City Council’s special meeting Thursday night.

Council members Mark Ahner and Roxanna Brush voted against the resolution.

The ambulance fund is an enterprise fund and needs to be able to pay its own way, but that isn’t possible with the number of personnel in the budget.

The fire department is paid out of the General Fund.

Ahner had made a motion to wait on the issue until the council begins having its budget workshops for the next fiscal year. The motion died for lack of a second.

Ahner asked why the council was putting this through now, three-fourths through the fiscal year, when it has been an ongoing problem.

He said 90 percent of the dispatch calls were for an ambulance, and yet the fund is paying only 28 percent of the cost. 

Fire Chief Dale Berg said those numbers are wrong, and that the ambulance calls make up 78 percent of the calls.

Berg said the ambulance rates haven’t been raised since 2005, although they request an increase just about every year. He said all of their costs go up every year. 

Ahner had said the city was trying to place seven full-time employees on the ambulance budget.

Councilman John Hollowell said that figure was unsustainable.

At the last meeting council members discussed taking $377,000 of the reserves to pay off the ambulance debt this fiscal year. That would leave more than $600,000 in reserves.

Mayor Butch Grenz questioned whether the cuts would have to come from the parks department in the General Fund. 

On Thursday Councilman Dwayne Andrews asked the mayor if he thought the reserves couldn’t handle the cut. 

Grenz called it a “slippery slope” to take money out of the reserves.

“I really don’t think this is going to bust the bank to fix the issue,” Andrews said.

He asked if the fire department budget would be able to handle moving the FTEs to the fire budget. 

City Clerk Lorrie Pearce said it would if they watch their spending and watch their overtime. She said some of the employees get 36 hours of overtime a pay period. 

In other news: 

-- The council unanimously approved Ordinance No. 1258 for a site review process.

-- A resolution to place a local government review on the ballot (Resolution No. 3663) passed unanimously after it was amended to include the number of mills (two - one for each year) instead of a dollar amount. 

State statute requires either the number of mills OR a dollar amount to be included; however, the council members wanted to include both. 

City Attorney Dan Rice said the statute is “quite clear” on the point.

-- Brent Leischner was appointed to the Housing Authority Board.

-- January claims were approved.