Friday, February 6, 2015

Who Drives The Ambulance?

All AFD professional firefighters do both EMS and fire duty

Many years ago, worried that bureaucrats would fail to reinvest in expensive capital items required to make the operation work, the town set up the "Ambulance Fund" to stash boatloads of money taken in by the vital service.

So it's not really an "Enterprise Fund" -- a separate fund set up as pretty much a stand-alone business, which is supposed to show all its expenses and set user fees accordingly so it at least breaks even.

Currently the town has four Enterprise Funds: Water, Sewer, Solid Waste, and Transportation (parking meters and Boltwood Garage).

The Cherry Hill Golf Course was an Enterprise Fund for 20 years but could never break even, so town officials gave up.  Town Meeting dissolved it as an Enterprise Fund a few years ago, thus wiping away a residual debt of close to $1 million owed the General Fund.

The town has five ambulances, each costing about $250,000, but usually does not have the staff on duty to operate them all, except for weekends when UMass is in session.

Called "impact shifts" (thirsty-Thursday night until early Sunday morning) UMass pays $40,000 per semester to bring in 4 extra firefighters so that all five ambulances can be operational.  Even then there are times AFD has to rely on mutual aid for an out-of-town ambulance to provide transport to a hospital.

The Ambulance Fund takes in over $2 million annually, which is about half AFD's total operating budget.  But, like an Enterprise Fund, any expenditures from the Ambulance Fund must be approved by Town Meeting.

While I'm normally not a fan of using money set aside for capital items to fund labor intensive operating budgets, that bean-counter rationality is trumped by my fear of innocent civilians burning to death.   

The Ambulance Fund routinely shows an annual surplus of $200,000 -- more than enough to hire two additional Firefighters.


Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2015 12:38 PM

Subject: Ambulance Revenues

Hi Larry,

In response to your request for the Ambulance fund balance to date, I wanted to explain in detail on how these funds are utilized. The ambulance fund is a Receipt Reserved for Appropriation account, this means we can only spend the funds with a Town Meeting vote, it is not a revolving fund.

Each year Town Meeting votes money to support the Public Safety (EMT) operating budget and EMS capital such as ambulances, stretchers etc.  In the past 5 years we have generated approximately $2.3 to $2.6 million a year and have appropriated close to that amount to support those budgets.  

Each year we must collect enough in the Ambulance Fund to cover the appropriation for the following year’s budget.

As you can see below our current unappropriated balance is $1,889,003 and the current FY16 budget is projected to use $2.5 million for operations, meaning that we still need to collect $626,288 to cover the FY16 budget, plus there will be some capital (to be determined).   

By June 30th we will need to have collected enough revenue to support the subsequent year’s budget and capital.   The Ambulance Fund ended FY14 with a balance of $220,627.

Hopefully this is clear, but if you have any questions let me know.

·         The chart below is straight forward, the ending Fund Balance (FB) for 2014 (3,060,060)
·         The amount voted to support the 2015 budget with the breakdown to the side (2,839,433) this includes capital for FY15
·         The beginning unappropriated FB for 2015(220,627), and the revenues collected to date (1,668,376) Total (1,889,003) is the BALANCE
·         The amount projected to be used for the 2016 budget is (2,515,292),this is the regular operation budget portion there is no capital amount projected yet as the JCPC is in process now to determine this

Sonia Aldrich, Comptroller

From: Larry Kelley [] 

Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2015 1:55 PM

To: Aldrich, Sonia
Subject: Re: Ambulance Revenues

Hey Sonia,

So the Ambulance Fund averages about $200,000 per month (assuming total annual revenues of say $2.4 million) then if that holds up for Feb, March, April, May and June it will take in $1 million to be used to cover the $626,288 required for FY16 thus leaving a residual balance of around $373,000 and change?

To: Larry Kelley Sent: Thu, Feb 5, 2015 2:04 pm Subject: RE: Ambulance Revenues

Yes, however there will be capital outlay so more likely $100-200K and change and the cycle repeats. Sonia Aldrich, Comptroller


Anonymous said...

Your next question should be, how much is AFD spending on overtime? And how much of that is for station coverage because the minimum staffing level is set so low?

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, I hear calls for station coverage all the time (not just on weekends).

Anonymous said...

And the anons say you're not a real reporter\journalist. Richard Marsh