County OKs $4M loan, looks at privatizing EMS

Published 7:08 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners have decided to take out a $4 million Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) loan to help the county meet immediate expenses in the coming months.

During Tuesday’s regular board meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution to apply for the loan, which would be at an interest rate of 1.98 percent through First Port City Bank.

Under the terms of the TAN loan, the county must repay it in full by Dec. 31. The repayment will be made from future property tax revenues that will be received by the county in December.

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The county took out a similar $3 million TAN loan in June 2012, and paid it off in full by Dec. 31, 2012.

In the Feb. 26 meeting of the Board of Commissioners, County Accounting Technician Michelle West said the county could face as much as a $2.4 million budget deficit by the end of the year. The TAN loan will be used to help alleviate much of that deficit.

Later in Tuesday’s meeting, County Board Chairman Russell Smith recommended that the county should consider the possibility of privatizing its Emergency Medical Service (EMS). He noted that the EMS typically loses about $500,000 a year.

Smith said that he had spoken with the chairman of Mitchell County, which has a privatized EMS service.

“They are very satisfied with it,” he said.

He noted that Mitchell County pays a contracted fee of $30,000 each month to the private EMS company, or about $360,000 a year. In terms of comparison, he said that the budget for the county EMS this year is expected to be about $2 million, well ahead of its projected budget of $1.5 million.

County Administrator Gary Breedlove noted that EMS’s budget problems are not a reflection on the county’s employees. He said that the county responds to a larger number of calls each year that are never paid for, either because the customer can’t afford it or for various other reasons.

Smith initially asked if the county should consider taking possible bids from potential private EMS companies, but several commissioners said they thought more research is needed first.

“I would definitely like some more information before we start requesting bids or anything like that,” Commissioner Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely said.

The commissioners directed Breedlove to research other municipalities with private EMS companies, and perhaps even invite prospective companies to make a presentation to the commissioners at a future board meeting.