County needs to consider privatizing EMS

Published 7:04 am Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners needs to seriously consider privatizing the county’s Emergency Medical Service.

For several years, the county has faced considerable deficits in its annual budgets, and one of the biggest money-losers for the county is the EMS service. In fact, commissioners estimate that it sustains an annual loss of $500,000 each year, and that this fiscal year’s operating budget is a little less than $2 million.

Mitchell County, a county of very similar population and size to Decatur County, has privatized its EMS service through a commercial company. The county pays a fee of $30,000 each month, or $360,000 a year, to that company.

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It doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that $360,000 is a considerably smaller amount than $2 million. Decatur County recently approved a $4 million Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) loan to help meet some of its current expenditures, just one year after taking out a similar $3 million loan. It is true that the county paid back the $3 million loan in full, and will be required to do the same with this year’s TAN loan. However, taking out a TAN loan each year is not a viable solution to the budget crisis.

Certainly privatizing EMS won’t make all of the county’s budget problems go away, but it could be a big step. We hope the county takes a serious look at the pros and cons of a privately-run EMS and quickly decide how to proceed. The taxpayers of this county deserve quick action.