Calif. city could start charging nonresidents for EMS

The change could help the city's fire department recover more of the costs of providing fee-related EMS services


Jennifer Iyer
Redlands Daily Facts, Calif.

REDLANDS, Calif. — In an effort to make fees more equitable, Redlands is moving forward with plans to charge nonresidents for emergency medical services.

On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the City Council gave initial approval of the ordinance.

The Redlands Fire Department, which provides EMS services to the city, expects to increase its 41% cost recovery rate for fee-related services to 92% following fee changes approved by the city council. (Photo/Redlands Fire Department Facebook)
The Redlands Fire Department, which provides EMS services to the city, expects to increase its 41% cost recovery rate for fee-related services to 92% following fee changes approved by the city council. (Photo/Redlands Fire Department Facebook)

The city’s paramedic services are partially paid for by a paramedic tax, which is assessed annually to Redlands property owners. The rest of the money for the program comes from the city’s general fund.

Fire Chief Nathan Cooke told the council “it is imperative that things remain fair and equitable for both nonresidents and residents alike pertaining to the costs associated to providing EMS services.”

Of the 8,600 or so emergency medical service calls it fields each year, the department estimates about 1,500 would fall into the nonresident category.

In an email, Cooke said while he wasn’t sure how the number of nonresident calls compares to other cities, some unique circumstances could make the city’s number slightly higher than its counterparts.

“We have two major freeways that traverse our city,” he noted, “and we have many large retail centers that likely attract residents from other communities.”

He said while he was not aware of any local communities that charge a separate nonresident fee, most charge an emergency medical services fee to everyone.

The Fire Department hired a consultant last year to analyze costs and fees, and propose changes.

Of the 198 fees examined, the study suggested most should be decreased, some even eliminated, while an increase was appropriate for others. These changes were adopted by the council Tuesday as part of an annual look at all city fees.

According to the study, the Fire Department collects $962,026 from fees each year while spending $2,321,726 on fee-related services.

“This translates to a 41% cost recovery rate,” the study says. “(Consultant) MGT recommends fee adjustments to bring the overall cost recovery rate up to 92%, resulting in $1,178,571 of annual increased revenue.”

As for paramedic fees, the study looked at charges in Chino, Corona, Hemet and Indio. Out of those cities, only Indio has nonresident fees, which were reported as $622 for an engine/truck response or $373 for a paramedic squad response. Redlands fees are proposed to be $514 and $380, respectively.

Paramedic taxes that help fund such services have been seeing shortfalls for years in several cities, including Redlands.

In the 2019-2020 budget, the city projected a shortfall in the paramedic fund, requiring a $4.1 million transfer from the general fund to balance the books, slightly more than the previous two years.

In Yucaipa, voters will see a half-cent sales tax on the March 2020 ballot which officials say will help fund paramedic services that are also not fully covered by a dedicated property assessment fee.

Redlands Mayor Paul Foster said the nonresident fee has been discussed for many years.

“It’s about time,” Councilman Paul Barich said. “I’m glad it’s being proposed.”

The fee will come before the council at a later date for a final approval.

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©2019 the Redlands Daily Facts (Redlands, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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