Kan. EMS, city agencies request increase in budget
The EMS proposed budget for 2020 is $1.512 million, based on a projected 5,100 ambulance runs, up from 4,800 runs last year
The Hutchinson News, Kan.
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Eight agencies that receive funding from Reno County made pitches Tuesday for increases in their budgets for next year totaling more than $400,000.
One agency, Reno County Emergency Medical Services, accounted for more than 80 percent of the proposed hikes, primarily for new ambulances.
At least three, however, asked for extra dollars to expand staff.
Commission chairman Bob Bush opened the afternoon meeting noting it was unlikely the county would fund all the additional requests. Though commissioners had questions for some of the presenters, none indicated what they thought of the proposals or which might receive support.
County Administrator Gary Meagher said he hoped to have a preliminary budget for the commission to consider by mid-June.
The county has contracted with the local hospital to provide an ambulance service since 1971. The county picks up the cost not covered by Medicare or private insurance. The proposed budget for 2020 is $1.512 million, based on a projected 5,100 ambulance runs, up from 4,800 runs last year.
The service has eight ambulances, one of which is out of service while the original chassis is remounted with a new ambulance box, and two that are reserve vehicles.
EMS is proposing one of the ambulance purchases be another "remount," though that's still pegged to cost $160,000. For the second vehicle, it is proposing to add a new four-wheel drive ambulance for $240,000.
EMS Deputy Chief David Trotter, who presented the EMS budget since former Director Terry David retired last week, said the plan is to put the new ambulance in Arlington, replacing a standard unit there that has more than 160,000 miles on it.
Two commissioners, however, separately questioned a plan to put the newest ambulance at a station that last year responded to just 5 percent of the agency's calls and was otherwise idle 95 percent of the time.
"It did get stuck not too long ago, with all the rain and mud," Trotter said. "We want a four-wheel drive vehicle out there."
During the discussion, Trotter noted they were removing a $60,000 line item from the budget earmarked for a new computer-aided dispatch system.
"We don't have enough info on it yet, but we may get the system in place for little or no expense," he said.
The agency, however, is also proposing adding two ambulances a year during four of the next five years, rather than just one.
"When we started replacing one a year we had three crews on duty," Trotter said. "Now we have five crews on duty ... It's no longer sustainable to replace just one. The fleet is tired."
For fiscal 2018, the service spent nearly $13,000 on maintenance, but more than $66,000 on repairs.
Bush asked why it needed to add a new training officer position, as well as budget $10,000 for outside training.
"Currently we're the largest service in the state that doesn't have a dedicated training person," Trotter said. "We have field training captains, but they're also front line paramedics. They're serving dual roles and are extremely busy making runs. We're shorting our staff training. We have a younger department than we used to, who are not as experienced, and there is an increased need for training. We want to do more outreach into the community as well. We've not done a lot of CPR or first aid training."
The outside training budget is to allow key staff to attend conventions and training out-of-state.
The salary expense in the budget will increase less than 2 percent overall, even offering employees a 2 percent raise and adding a training chief, Trotter said.
One added expense for a new training officer, however, would be a vehicle for that person, budgeted at $15,000. They plan to buy a used Kansas Highway Patrol vehicle for that person, Trotter said.
The Quest Center for Entrepreneurs wants the county to up its commitment by $25,000, to $90,000 next year, to help hire an "entrepreneurship navigator" who would focus on "entrepreneurship outreach and connection building" and "a significant marketing facelift," according to Quest Center director David Dukart.
The Hutchinson Community Foundation has made a five-year commitment to provide a $90,000 annual match, and the agency is also asking the city of Hutchinson to contribute $30,000 to the position next year, for a total $210,000 budget for the agency.
Under the plan, after the first year, the county's share of the cost would drop for two years — to $82,500 and then $70,000 — while the city's share increased. In years four and five, each municipality would add another $5,000 per year.
The Quest Center was successful in business development the last two years, Dukart claimed, with the addition of 84 new jobs created in the county. Another 18 jobs have already been created this year, he said.
A 19-member Entrepreneur Task Force created almost two years ago, however, highlighted to the need for an individual to help guide local entrepreneurs through the business development process.
"David is tapped out," Quest Center board chairman Daniel Friesen said, referring to Dukart. "He's a good program administrator, but we need someone to navigate people through the process, and we need to do more marketing efforts."
"We see a lot of failures before they get out of the gate," Friesen said. "They get discouraged and move on. A big part of that is capturing entrepreneurs in the early cycle of their work and running them through the process. For example, most run straight to the bank and get denied. They walk away, head hung low, and that's the end of it."
Community Foundation Director Aubrey Patterson said members of her board recognized "we need to look at economic development holistically; not just recruitment, retention and expansion, but also entrepreneurship and succession."
"To grow the economy, we can't re-divide the pie," Patterson said. "We can't allow it to be an add-on, one man working in one building, operating in a silo. The task force showed us we have to work together to make the system better. Our first investment will be in another person and a marketing commitment."
Megan Miller, chairwoman of the Reno County Extension Council executive board, offered two budget proposals to the commission.
The first proposed a 2.19 percent or $8,000 increase in the Extension Office budget, to $373,000 in 2020, which would allow a cost-of-living increase for staff.
The second sought an additional $70,000, which would be a nearly 20 percent increase in its budget, to add a fifth extension agent.
The agency made the same request last year. The commission in 2018 granted the office its first significant funding increase in several years, but it declined to expand the office and also killed a proposal to create a regional extension district over concerns about losing control of its budget.
With another agent, the office would create a STEAM, program, Miller said, which is a STEM program — focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics — with an agricultural component.
"We had nearly 300 requests for school programs last year," Miller said. "Due to the work we're doing, we could only fulfill 100 requests."
The agency, meanwhile, Miller said, is also applying for grant funding from outside sources to enhance its offerings.
©2019 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)