In its first public budget hearing, Gadsden County commissioners have set next year’s tax rate at 8.9064 mils (the same as last year) with a budget total (including constitutional officers) of $42,953,389.
The tax rate was approved unanimously, however, the total budget ended with a 4-1 vote.
This year’s budget includes taking $700,000 out of general unrestricted fund balances. Those funds are to be used for an additional ambulance ($300,000), roofing and an air conditioning chiller for the W.A. Woodham Law Enforcement Center.
Commission chairman Doug Croley had asked for an explanation concerning the additional ambulance.
Emergency Medical Services director Tommy Baker gave an overview of six months of operations (from February to July) by his department.
Baker had six maps pinpointing the calls made across the county.
He explained that about 80 percent of the average of 650 calls a month were coming from the Quincy area.
The map shows concentrations of calls as well in Gretna, Havana, Midway and Chattahoochee.
Baker said there was a need for the additional ambulance. County administrator Robert Presnell stated that after studying the data over the six months, the ambulance was needed.
Presnell added that compared to other area small counties, Gadsden made more ambulance runs.
One issue discussed concerned the response time. The new ambulance would help that, Baker said.
He said that ambulances from Chattahoochee were out of service for as much as three hours transporting patients to Tallahassee.
In addition, Baker’s overview included statistics on calls. About 75 percent of the calls are to the hospital, he said. The remaining calls are divided primarly among those that refuse to go to the hospital and those who are treated on scene.
Chairman Croley stated that citizens would want the quickest response possible and praised EMS for their fine job with limited resources.
Commissioner Brenda Holt told the commission, “you need this,” in reference to the new ambulance.
Commissioner Gene Morgan said he understood the need, but wanted to find another revenue source other than the fund balance that the commission had worked so hard to build.
Morgan was the lone vote against the budget, asking for another way to fund the $700,000 being taken from the fund balances.