Public Hearings Scheduled for August 13th
On Tuesday, July 9th, members of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted to hold a public hearing on the proposal for the creation of an Emergency Medical Service District encompassing all of Prince Edward County and impose a district tax levy of $0.01 on all Real Property and $0.10 on all Personal Property (excluding merchants capital). The creation of this service district will ensure that all citizens and businesses share in the cost of providing emergency medical services throughout the County.
The Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad (PEVRS) has provided ambulance and rescue services to Prince Edward County, Cumberland County, and the Town of Farmville since 1969.
“The County thanks the volunteers at PEVRS, both past and present, for all of their hard work and long hours in providing these services over the last fifty years and hopefully for much longer into the future. We’ve been lucky to have this service, but like all volunteer rescue squads throughout the country, it’s impossible to meet the ever-increasing operational requirements and continue services without sustainable funding,” stated Wade Bartlett, County Administrator.
Sustainable funding will ensure that the PEVRS can hire and pay an Executive Director to manage the organization and allow the purchase of an ambulance every other year. The hiring of a full-time Executive Director will ensure consistent, reliable management of PEVRS that is not dependent on volunteers, most of whom have full-time jobs and cannot devote the hours required to manage the day-to-day operations of a large organization.
The purchase of an ambulance every two years ensures that no ambulance will be more than ten years old. “Our citizens are the ones who pay the price when we lack reliable ambulances that are ready to go when a call for aid goes out,” stated Bartlett.
In recent years, PEVRS has faced a number of challenges that have led to the need for increased investment by the localities it serves. The organization has been and still is primarily managed by County residents who are unpaid volunteers. In the past, crews manning the ambulances were also mostly volunteers. The decrease in volunteers has primarily been those who man the ambulance. To continue to provide service to our citizens, PEVRS had no choice but to hire paid staff to hire the response crews needed to cover over 3,500 calls each year. The cost of the paid staff has increased as a result of having to compete for qualified personnel with private emergency medical service providers. In addition, EMS call volumes have increased with non-transport calls increasing at a greater rate than transport calls. Non-transport calls are not paid by insurance or Medicaid/Medicare. These calls must be responded to but do not generate revenue. In recent years, PEVRS had only one paid crew running calls but with the increase in calls and the decrease in volunteers, they now have 2 (sometimes 3) paid crews running calls at any given time. These factors and more have led to the need for increased funding to sustain services.
“It is essential we provide a sustainable revenue source for PEVRS to ensure this critical service is provided to our citizens, both now and into the future,” said Bartlett. With that goal in mind, Prince Edward County Administrator, Wade Bartlett, has recommended to the Board of Supervisors that the County increase its investment in the organization.
“No one likes increasing taxes, but in this case, it is essential to do so in order to continue to provide quality services and care for Prince Edward County residents,” stated Bartlett.
According to Bartlett, the tax levy will generate approximately $300,000 per year that according to the Code of Virginia, must be set aside in a special fund to be used solely to fund emergency medical services in Prince Edward County. In comparison, neighboring counties are paying $600,000 per year for one crew. This funding can be used to support all nonprofit EMS agencies in Prince Edward County, as approved by the Board of Supervisors.
At the July 9th meeting, the Board of Supervisors also voted to authorize PEVRS to immediately purchase a new ambulance. The County will provide immediate funding for half of the $250,000 total cost of the ambulance and the balance upon delivery. It is envisioned this cost will be paid from the revenue generated by the dedicated tax levy. Currently, PEVRS has 5 ambulances, 4 of those have trucks about 9 years old. Purchasing new ambulances will ensure that the organization is able to run calls efficiently and effectively without having to be concerned about the maintenance issues of their current vehicles.
A public hearing is scheduled for August 13, 2019 to establish the Emergency Medical Service District. A separate hearing is scheduled for the same day on the district levies.