Township of Niles Approves SMCAS Special Assessment District – Leader Publications

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TOWNSHIP OF NILES CHARTER — Township leaders have made a decision on a proposed ratings increase for the local ambulance service.

The Southwest Michigan Community Ambulance Service is seeking a five-year increase in the Special Assessment District rate – from $20 per year to $50 per year.

On Monday, the Niles Charter Township Board of Directors passed a resolution authorizing a five-dollar increase in the SAD rate over the next two years — from $20 per year to $25 per year. A public hearing for the SAD has been set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6.

Township Clerk Terry Eull said the two-year period will allow council to review cost projections to determine whether or not SMCAS recommendations are needed.

“Five years now is a lot to try and project,” Eull said. “I think it would give the board a few years to see how it goes.”

SMACS initially presented its proposed increase at the June 6 meeting. The non-profit, municipally owned and operated Advanced Ambulance Service has provided 24/7 emergency response in Southwest Michigan since 1976, serving residents of the towns of Buchanan and Niles, as well as Buchanan, Niles, Howard, Bertrand, Milton and the townships of Pokagon.

Currently, each package in the agency’s service area pays $20 per year to have 24/7 on-call Advanced Life Support level service. According to SMCAS, the rate has not increased in more than 25 years while operational costs and call volume have continued to climb without additional funding.

SMCAS is requesting an increase in the special assessment rate to ensure it can continue to provide the high level of skilled pre-hospital care residents have come to expect. The additional funding would be used to recruit and retain new and existing staff, compensate staff at industry standard for their work, and better cover operational costs. Scribner predicts that costs will increase by 46% over the next five years.

“A lot of people looked at those salaries and said, ‘I don’t want to be a paramedic,'” Scribner said. “We are over 1,000 paramedics short in the state. We have 300 people in training, or have done so; we have less than that now and based on some surveys done by the Ambulance Association of Michigan, we were facing 33% attrition over the next two years.

Administrator Chris Vela, who is the township chair on the SMCAS committee, expressed support for both Scribner and SMCAS.

“This particular industry is very different from other corporate funds,” Vela said. “We have to understand that the pool they are drawing from is drying up. I think there is a lack of understanding with this business model.

Because of this attrition, Scribner thinks the competition for paramedics is fierce. He said SMCAS wages are 9% lower at its lower scale and 15% lower at the top of its scale than local ambulance service Medic 1. Van Buren EMS pays 36% more on its lower scale than SMCAS and 38% higher on its peak. .

“We’re going to have a shortage of paramedics in this state and we’re all going to be competing for those paramedics,” he said. “It’s the numbers that worry me, but our people are engaged and I think they like our organization. We have never been short-staffed before. We have never been the highest earners and we are not trying to reach the highest earners. We try to keep ourselves within a range so that these people don’t say, “I have a family and there are other places that will pay me more.” That’s what we’re working on right now. »

Township Treasurer Jim Ringler, who was acting chairman in the absence of Township Supervisor Jim Stover on Monday, reminded Scribner that in the event the township resolution does not cover the costs incurred by SMCAS, the township would pay the difference for its share of the SMCAS using the general fund.

“Tonight what we’re doing is evaluating the owners,” he said. “You have to remember that our owners have no say in this. It’s seven people speaking on behalf of over 14,400 people on how we’re going to do it.”

Several board members said that the lack of information provided by SMCAS on its salaries and budget prevented them from accepting its proposal as is.

“It’s hard to sit here and make a decision on behalf of things like this when we don’t have the information we really need,” administrator Jim Cooper said. “We want to have all the facts possible so we can make an intelligent decision.”

“We should have known about this increase months before us,” Eull said. “In my opinion, we didn’t know that until very late in the ball game. We should have been among the first to know.

Scribner remains unfazed in his goal of moving SMCAS salary scales to a competitive range with agencies in the region.

“As long as they agree they’ll cover their share of whatever we need,” Scribner said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we need everything we asked for. I have no doubt that it will play out and that is how it will be.

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