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Allegany County Releases Statement on EMS Budget Status

May 28th, 2024 by WCBC Radio

Allegany County Governement  May 28, 2024 -

We have been exploring various scenarios to address the decreased EMS budget. Unfortunately, our discussions so far have not yielded enough significant savings needed to balance the budget. We remain committed to fiscal responsibility and not raising taxes for the residents of Allegany County, so we continue to work diligently to close the gap.

To provide some background, EMS costs have increased by 400% over the last five years, a rate we cannot sustain. During FY25 budget hearings, we asked Emergency Services Department leadership and union representatives to propose solutions for saving money while maintaining coverage throughout the county. Our goal was to reduce expenses by $2 million.

Department leadership and union representatives have identified approximately $900,000 in savings by cutting fringe programs and benefits. Most of their budget comprises staff costs, which they consider fixed expenses. However, we believe there is room for improvement in scheduling that could significantly reduce costs.

Currently, our EMS staff works a 24/72 schedule, meaning they work 24 hours straight, then have 72 hours off. This schedule more often than not results in overtime pay, depending on when their shifts fall within a specific week. This is a national standard and not uncommon for EMS providers, but creates a situation that we cannot afford. Last year, the department's overtime costs were around $1.5 million.

We have proposed moving to 12-hour shifts for a small number of union employees. Under this plan, staff members would work 36 hours a week but be paid for 40, cutting our overtime costs and making a substantial difference in our budget while maintaining EMS coverage throughout the county. The union has refused this proposal and has not suggested any alternatives. We remain about $1 million short of our $2 million savings goal.

With just days untl the final budget must be passed, we now face the possibility of decreasing staffing and slightly reducing EMS coverage by merging stations/staffing a few stations part-time. This is not our preferred course of action, for our staff or for our citizens.

We have asked the union again to reconsider this proposal and transition less than 15 positions to a 12-hour shift. If they refuse, we will be forced to lay off staff.

Make no mistake, our EMS division is highly valued. We understand that the department has grown due to increasing need and demand within the county, and we greatly appreciate the work they do. While none of us are happy with the current situation, we recognize that changes must be made. Continuing operations without any changes is not only unfeasible but also irresponsible.

We reached out to union representatives this morning to communicate this. We also conveyed that our timeline for these changes is flexible (within reason), but a plan should be in place before the budget is passed. Additionally, we are still willing to consider any additional cost-saving measures they propose and remain ready to work with them, provided we move significantly closer to the $2 million mark.