Anticipating economic pressures to continue in 2010, board members approved a reduction in spending by $40,000 for the coming year, anticipating few major capital improvements. According to Office Manager Jeaneittia Pierce, the board opted for a generally frugal approach.
Income projections showed a key measure of the board's caution. Without expecting any drop in demand for services, the budget anticipated a 15 percent decline in Medicare reimbursements. Pierce said that federal health care reform has left significant uncertainty, which translated into lowered expectations for funding.
The district depends on property taxes for about 30 percent of its income, the rest coming from service fees. With assessed valuations for local property down for the coming year, Pierce said the board preferred being overly cautious rather than being surprised by a lack of income.
The major capital improvement planned for the coming year will be acquiring two laptop computers for recording medical records electronically as patients are picked up. The laptops will be moved from vehicle to vehicle rather than buying four to equip all the ambulances, Pierce said.
Ruggedized laptops cost $7,000 each, plus another $10,000 for the software. Pierce said the budget built in funds for a possible server in case the laptops required additional support, plus a cushion for replacing other equipment over the year if necessary.
The new budget calls for a $2,000 reduction in spending for salaries and wages, cutting fuel use by $5,000 and a 22 percent reduction in spending for training.
In other financial action, the board voted to retain Dr. Dennis Hughes as medical director for another year. Hughes will be paid $3,600, the same amount paid in 2009.
Board members voted to endorse the proposed Enhanced Enterprise Zone proposal put forward in Barry County. The district's territory extends south of Purdy and Pulaskifield, offering significant area for development beyond the city of Monett, which has opted out of the enterprise zone.
Pierce said the board took a forward thinking view in hopes that an enterprise zone could bring more business into the area and thus more property tax revenue after the decade of abated tax payments passed.
Looking at operations during November, crews made 193 runs, the largest number for the month in more than five years. The runs made the 11-month 2009 total only seven less than than the same period last year.
Patients transported included: 55 to Cox Monett Hospital, 53 to Springfield hospitals, six to Joplin hospitals, five to St. John's-Aurora and four to St. John's-Cassville. Crews took 14 patients to nursing homes, five to helicopter landing zones and two to their homes.
Crews transported patients on four calls from other ambulance services. Three calls were turned over to other services when both rigs were off on other assignments.
The district paid 539 hours of overtime during three pay periods in November. Of that total, 160 hours were unscheduled.
Paramedic Andy McCaslin reported teaching a first responder class for firefighters from the Freistatt and Purdy departments. Four first responders and a district employee earned cardio-pulmonary resuscitation certificates after completing classes. McCaslin said preparations had begun for a paramedic refresher class and an employee driving class.
The next board meeting will be on 7 p.m. on Jan. 12 at the district office at 307 Dairy St. in Monett.