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Ambulance fees could rise
Raising ambulance fees is one way the county is trying to make up for lost property tax revenue.
By DAVID DECAMP
Published July 11, 2007
DADE CITY – Faced with a funding shortfall, Pasco officials have turned to ambulances - specifically, the fees the county charges for them.
The County Commission on Tuesday unveiled a proposed $1.2-billion budget for next year that includes steeper ambulance fees, one way the county plans to make up for state-mandated property tax cuts.
Under the proposed 2007-08 budget, the owner of a $240,000 house would see a $100 drop in the county tax bill.
But that tax cut and possible future ones makes user fee hikes more likely, County Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand said.
"I wouldn't be surprised by it. I guess I might expect it," Hildebrand said.
With the property tax rate cut and other revenue dropping, Pasco is facing a $15.8-million shortfall in the proposed budget.
And that's with the higher ambulance fees adding $1.5-million in revenue next year. The county also is raising the hourly charges for hiring crews at special events.
The increases will help offset cuts to county money for operations, budget chief Mike Nurrenbrock said.
For advanced ambulance services, for example, the maximum charge would rise from $375 to $525. The mileage rate would rise from $7 to $9. It would allow the county to obtain the maximum federal reimbursement level available, and move closer to rates in surrounding counties, Nurrenbrock said.
Insurance and government programs like Medicaid often pay part or all of the bill for medic service.
Ambulance service is not the only way fees are going up. Parks officials expect to raise the prices for various services and rentals, although details were not available Tuesday.
Those details will be hashed out starting next Tuesday as the commission considers how to balance its budget.
Among notable proposals, the budget includes an $11-million increase from Sheriff Bob White, helping pay for 109 new personnel. It also includes $2.5-million for a fund to help attract new companies the county.
While county officials predict those items will be topics for cuts, Commissioner Michael Cox warned cutting all of the business incentives could hurt the county in the long term.