By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Ste. Genevieve County Ambulance Board members will soon be addressing the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. District executive director Kendall Shrum suggested that two October meetings may be required to hammer out a budget, during last Thursday night’s monthly board meeting.
“I’m working on it now.,” Shrum said. We’ve got several issues we need to address on that. Of course, minimum wage issues always come up. That’s going to be one we’re looking at.”
Missouri’s minimum wage, $8.60 at the time that Proposition B passed in November 2018, is increasing by 85 cents a year until it hits $12 an hour in 2023.
Concern has been expressed in emergency personnel circles that unless EMT, law enforcement and other salaries are boosted, the $12 figure will have fast food workers making basically the same pay as beginning emergency personnel.
“Frank Foster (the district’s attorney) weighed in his opinion,” Shrum said. “Because we are a political subdivision, we are exempt from minimum wage standards and guidelines. Go figure that: A government agency exempt from what the government tells us we have to pay. I can’t figure that one out.”
It was agreed that the district definitely needs to keep its employees above the minimum wage figure.
“That was one hurdle we were on,” Shrum said. “The other one we’re looking at, the employers are still discussing looking at some type of retirement plan.”
Shrum said many of the veteran employees “are willing to sacrifice a potential raise for the retirement stuff,” while many of the younger employees prefer getting higher pay.
“It’s going to be a split half and half staff.” Shrum said. He said a staff meeting will be held prior to the next meeting to try to come to a consensus on the issue before starting on the budget.
Shrum said two employees are looking at retiring early in 2021. Since their replacements would have less experience and seniority, replacing the retirees will save a little money, he noted.
Of course new equipment will also figure into the budget.
Shrum said that Blake Clifton, a representative of American Response Vehicles [ARV] in Columbia, who usually advises the board on truck purchases, has advised him that a remount of an existing box on a 2020 gas chassis would be about $111,000. It would be six to seven months from ordering to actually having the vehicle in service. A brochure from another company has similar trucks ready for immediate delivery for about $120,000, Shrum said.
A Sprinter Type 3, with a bigger box than most of the Sprinters, would be about $160,000.
Shrum pointed out that the figures “are just for budgetary purposes” and that actual bids will be solicited before any purchases are considered.
“I just wanted to give you an update that we are moving forward with something on that,” he said.
The district hopes to qualify for some of the county’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security [CARES] Act funds.
One purchase the County Commission is confident will be accepted is the purchase of four Lucas 3.1 chest compression systems and a McGrath MAC EMS video laryngoscope. With it, plus a four-year service and maintenance agreement, the total purchase price was just over $68,000.
The chest compression unit allows CPR to be administered better and ore safely by ambulance personnel, while the laryngoscope allows obstructions in the airways to be checked our without staff having to be face-to-face with the patient.
“The commissioners gave a thumbs-up that, yes, that’s something that looks good, something that should qualify,” Shrum said.
He noted that because the district received about $30,000 in CARES Act money this spring, based on Medicare patients. For the new purchase to qualify, it must be proven that the $30,000 was spent on CARES-related items. The district had used it to get decontaminination equipment, which Shrum said should be arriving about the end of the month.