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Marion County Ambulance District approves $5.2 million budget

The Marion County Ambulance District Board approved a $5.224 million budget, which includes a continuation of COVID hazard pay for employees.

The budget was approved during a monthly board zoom meeting, during which they also approved a change to the annual education incentive for employees, heard an update on CARES Act funding and discussed ambulances.

While there were no specific line items to be approved, the budget did include the $2 per hour for each field employee for hazard pay, bringing the total payroll budget to $2,490,000.

“The employees have done an exceptional job throughout the crisis, and we want them to know that the hard work and patience has not gone unnoticed,” said Chief John Nemes, adding he would like to see the $2 per hour increase become permanent, regardless of any future federal reimbursements. 

CARES Act funding has been paying for the hazard pay.

Through adjustments with Ralls County’s contract which means the ability to get rid of the half-day truck, there should be enough to maintain the COVID pay, Nemes said.

He also suggested re-evaluating the pay in six months, although he is confident the budget will sustain the pay as well as operations.

He added he prefers to be cautious because any drastic change in sales tax or service revenue could affect this and there is still a lot of uncertainty over the coronavirus. 

No new truck purchases have been included for 2021, and those funds will be shifted to cover the hazardous pay. 

In addition, the board approved paying off the ambulance purchases, totaling $50,192.59 in 2020 to take that off the 2021 budget. The last loan payment would have been due in January.

Since he did not include any new ambulances in the 2021 budget, Nemes said he budgeted more for vehicle repair in 2021.

Of the income for the budget, $2,650,000 is expected from services and another $2,325,000 from sales tax. Fees and contracts account for the remaining amount.

Nemes noted he did not include the GEMT funding, as he did not want it to be part of the annual budget because the program could go away at any time.

However, he projected the amount to be close to the same as received in 2020, which was $310,522.32. 

Nemes said the Board would still have to approve paying the state’s portion of the program cost to receive this funding (which is also not included in the 2021 budget), but that amount would not be known until February or March and can be addressed then.

In other new business, Nemes discussed the annual education incentive for the employees, noting the $25,000 that was approved by the board on the 2020 budget is usually distributed to the employees based on the number of education hours they logged for the year. 

“With so many restrictions due to COVID, I don’t think this is really practical for 2020,” he said, instead  recommending this year, the total number of hours worked by the employees should be added up and divided into the budgeted amount to get a total per hour.

“Then each employee will receiving that amount for every hour they individually worked in 2020,” he added, noting this will provide an incentive to everyone, and those who worked extra hours will receive more. 

The board asked if the budget would allow for a larger distribution this year due to COVID. 

Nemes said the District was $196,967 to the good through the end of October, but the approval of the early truck payment and the additional payroll period in 2020 would take most of that. 

However, he said he fully supports any increase for the field personnel, and the board voted to increase the budgeted amount to $50,000, then the money be distributed per hour.

In his report, Nemes said he had received hazard pay amounts of $13,277.58 and $14,232.01 from the CARES Act, but that program has ended.

In addition, the Marion County Commission had approved half of his requested amount of $63,525 to start replacing bunker gear. Those funds along with the $60,000 approved by the board is not enough to outfit PRN employees.

“We will have to stick with the original plan of outfitting full-time employees only,” he said.

In other business, Nemes said the district is still exploring options for the annual Christmas dinner and awards, but believes it might have to be virtual this year.

Nemes also provided information on the number of calls for from Oct. 14 through Nov. 18. MCAD has answered 589 calls for emergency service. Base 1 (Hannibal) handled 189 calls. Base 2 (Hannibal) handled 218 calls. Base 3 (Palmyra) handled 92 calls. 

The 12-hour reserve unit handled 56 calls. Off-duty or call in crews have handled five calls, and the Cardinal Glennon unit has had nine transports.