Commonwealth Journal

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February 16, 2013

City Council in favor of EMS plan

Agreement with county would provide extra funds from occupational tax

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City officials appear to be in favor of a recent agreement between the city and county drawn up to help the city avoid a funding shortfall for emergency services without leaving the county high and dry on the occupational tax front. 
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler during Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting asked that councilors consider moving forward with the tentative agreement, which was drawn up between the city and Pulaski County officials last week in an effort to keep those on both sides of the issue satisfied. 
All of the councilors, save for Councilor Jimmy Eastham, who was absent, voted in favor of allowing Girdler and Somerset City Attorney Carrie Wiese to move forward with negotiations with the county and “to start drafting the necessary documents for future actions,” Girdler said during the meeting. 
City officials had looked at claiming its chunk of the occupational tax revenue, which would have been anywhere between 55 percent and 75 percent of the county’s current occupational tax revenue. That would have left the county reeling.
The reason behind that move was what Girdler said had been a funding shortfall for Somerset-Pulaski County EMS, which the city currently funds and operates thanks to an agreement drawn up between the city and county in the 1990s. Girdler had stated the city took 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. 
But before the city moved in to take its chunk of the occupational tax revenue, both sides agreed to negotiate a new agreement involving EMS funding and the occupational tax. 
One key part of the agreement is a restructuring of the occupational tax from which the county receives significant revenue. It’s that restructuring of how the occupational tax revenue is distributed that provides perhaps the linchpin upon which the agreement is built.

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