Commonwealth Journal

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January 8, 2013

Somerset looking to take occupational tax, a move that would deplete county coffers

Somerset —  

One city’s financial solution may be a county’s financial downfall.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler has a plan to implement the city’s own occupational tax — something that the third-class city is legally authorized to do — in order to resolve funding issues for entities such as Somerset-Pulaski County EMS.
“The city must implement its own occupational tax,” Girdler sad. “ ... With the new simple application (of the city’s own occupational tax), this is an effort to correct the problems and move forward for both the county and the city.”
But that leaves questions as to whether the county will be able to operate without its full occupational revenue, which makes up 20 percent of that entity’s budget. 
“It would cripple us,” said Pulaski County Treasurer Joan Isaacs. 
A 1995 agreement drawn up between the county and city currently outlines how the county and city fund Pulaski County 911 and EMS. As per the agreement, the county took over operations and funding for 911, while the city was identified as the “overseer” of EMS. 
The problem is in the funding, Girdler said. Girdler said changes in reimbursement regulations for Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance has kept EMS from being able to collect on those bills fully from coverage providers. That leaves the remainder in the hands of the private customer, many of whom can’t or won’t pay their accounts. 
The result is a $970,000 shortfall for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. That had to be written off as a loss by the city. 
The 1995 agreement states that EMS will receive additional funding from the occupational tax fund “in the event of unanticipated and/or unbudgeted expenditures and/or in the event of unanticipated revenue shortfalls.” EMS currently receives around 13 percent “off the top” of the occupational tax revenue. 
Girdler said meetings with the county about the funding issue hasn’t turned out much as far as additional funding from the county’s side. 

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