Maumee Administrator Explains The Need For Proposed 5.6-Mill Levy For Fire And EMS

Maumee Fire Capt. Dan Williams (left) and paramedic Ron Wedge work on cleaning and organizing the Life Squad 7 unit after a run. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Lucas County’s plan to divest itself of running the Life Squad Advanced Life Support system (ALS) was the last straw – but not the only reason Maumee City Council voted during a special January 30 meeting to place a 5.6-mill levy on the ballot to support Maumee fire and EMS services.

“The levy is needed for three reasons: The county is getting out of the EMS business; we need to transition from a paid-on-call (volunteer) to a part-time staffing model for our fire department; and revenues, historically, have not been increasing proportionally with the costs,” stated Maumee city administrator Patrick Burtch.

Life Squad

The county currently receives $20 million in income tax revenue for EMS services but provides $804,000 a year each to Maumee and nine other fire departments that operate the Life Squad units – county-owned white ambulances staffed with paramedics who provide ALS. It costs the city $1.6 million a year, including paying for staff, fuel and other costs.

Currently, Life Squad 7 responds to any emergency requiring ALS in its vicinity, and more than 50 percent of those calls are in Toledo. Now, the county is urging local communities to band together in districts. In Maumee’s case, that would be with Monclova Township. Burtch reached out to township administrator Harold Grim to see how the communities can work together to provide this service.

However, Maumee needs to proceed as if it is funding the ALS service on its own, Burtch said, since he and Fire Chief Brandon Loboschefski have both heard a county official confirm that funding is not guaranteed in the future.

“We’re already funding $800,000 of a $1.6 million expense. If the county stops paying us, it makes our situation more dire,” Burtch said.

Even eliminating runs to Toledo or other areas wouldn’t lower the need for $1.6 million, because that’s what it takes to have 12 of Maumee’s 15 full-time paramedics in order to provide two on duty 24 hours a day.

“We won’t ignore a neighbor in need no matter where they are, but we first need to make sure we can provide Maumee residents with the professional service that they’ve come to know and expect,” Burtch said. 

An Updated Model

Maumee is one of the few municipalities of its size to still utilize what is often referred to as a volunteer model for its fire department: one in which firefighters and EMTs are paid for every call answered from home, work or anywhere outside the station.

With 12 of Maumee’s 15 full-time paramedics ensuring that the county unit is always staffed, the Maumee ambulance often requires paid-on-call personnel to supplement that service.

Like fire departments across the country, Maumee has seen the number of paid-on-call volunteers drop. The reasons can be tied to in-creasing requirements for training and the impact on family and work commitments. As a result, the city is paying more in overtime for part-time and full-time staff to cover calls.

“Forty years ago, we didn’t have this problem because we didn’t have the same level of training requirements. To stay with a paid-on-call model, we need to have enough people to come in at a moment’s notice – and it’s hard to do if they’re getting paid $5.00 an hour to be on call at home and $17.00 an hour when they come in,” Burtch said.

“Instead of responding from home, we want to have part-time sign-up for shifts and be able to answer from the station when a call comes,” Burtch continued. “Some can work the night shift when they’re working during the day at another job. Others might work at another department and pick up a shift here.”

Another challenge unique to the department is the difference between paramedics whose retirement is through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and those who are funded through the Ohio Police and Firefighters Fund (OP&F). Anyone who responds to a fire needs to have retirement through OP&F, and that system requires an additional 10 percent in city pension contributions over those who are only responding to EMS calls.

“It’s a more expensive plan, and the additional 10 percent that goes into OP&F is a pretty substantial number, but it makes sense, under the new model, to have employees who are trained to do multiple tasks – to fight fires and respond to medical emergencies at a moment’s notice,” Burtch said.

With the changeover from the county Life Squad system, Maumee will no longer have use of the county squad and will need to buy and equip a second Maumee ambulance.

“Both ambulances will be able to provide much-needed life support services. Our EMTs and paramedics are some of the most highly trained and experienced in the county and provide the highest quality of service,” Burtch said.

Rising Costs

As costs for everything from equipment and training to fuel and vehicles increase significantly, the revenues collected by Maumee are not increasing at the same rate, Burtch said. That’s been a trend for the past two decades.

“For fast-growing communities, the revenue increases at the same or faster pace than the inflationary costs of services,” he said. “Maumee is a first-ring suburb, so we’re not growing as fast. Arrowhead Business Park was built in the 1980s, and while the city is working hard and seeing some successes in attracting new business, we’re not having the increase in revenue like those in Monclova Township, Whitehouse or Perrysburg Township, where there is significant new growth. The city continues to struggle with revenue shortfalls, absent a dedicated funding source for fire and EMS service.”

Many people believe that a large portion of their property taxes go toward city services, said Mayor Rich Carr, but Maumee receives just 6 percent of the total property tax bill. In some cases, homeowners pay little to nothing in income tax because of where they work.

For example, a Maumee homeowner working in an-other municipality that levies an income tax at the same or higher rate than Maumee pays no income tax to support city services in Maumee. In some cases, but not all, homeowners pay less than the cost of city refuse collection. Other services such as street cleaning, leaf pickup, street repair, police, fire and EMS service go either underfunded or are not funded at all, Carr said.

Maumee Law Director Alan Lehenbauer filed the paperwork with the Lucas County Board of Elections to place the 5.6-mill levy on the May 2 ballot. If approved, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $196 per year.

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