Commonwealth Journal

Local News

February 5, 2013

County, city come to terms on EMS flap

Somerset —  

A potential financial crisis facing Pulaski County government appears to have been averted thanks to a preliminary agreement regarding emergency funding services being reached with the City of Somerset.
According to a statement released from Pulaski County Judge-Executive Barty Bullock’s office, the two local governments have reached an accord on the Emergency Medical Services System (EMS) contract that would help solve a problematic funding shortfall facing the city.
The agreement comes just in time, since the Somerset City Council opted last month for a March 1 deadline for Pulaski County to put up the necessary funds before pursuing other, potentially more drastic solutions.
“Any time the city and the county can work together to accomplish things for everybody, I think it’s great,” said Bullock. “That’s the way we have to operate. We have to operate jointly for the better of everybody.”
One key part of the agreement is a restructuring of the occupational tax from which the county receives significant revenue. The threat to the county was Somerset taking a massive chunk of that revenue in order to help fund EMS. 
The city was seeing a loss of around $970,000 for EMS by the close of the 2011-12 fiscal year thanks to changes in Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance coverage, based on recent comments by Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler.
It’s that restructuring of how the occupational tax revenue is distributed that provides perhaps the linchpin upon which the agreement is built.
Specific details on the occupational tax breakdown weren’t released yet by either Bullock or Girdler’s offices. Girdler expects to present the plan to the Somerset City Council for their consideration later this week, and that the city’s willingness to move forward was based on the occupational tax reorganization.
“Without complete restructuring of the occupational tax, I wouldn’t want to say that the problem is solved, because it isn’t,” said Girdler, “... not unless the whole package comes together.”

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