City Will Retry Paramedic Levy, Mayor Cites Misunderstanding
Law says revenue from insurance billing must go into General Fund.
UPDATED 9:33 am: Avon Lake Fire Chief Glenn Eisenhardt provided the bolded information.
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka confirmed that paperwork is in order to place the failed firefighter/paramedic levy back on the ballot for the November General Election, if it’s determined after absentee votes are counted, the measure still failed.
“I was very disappointed,” Zilka said the day after the issue came up 14 votes short of passing. The count is still unofficial and may be subject to a recount. “We need to do a better job clarifying the issue.”
The city voted on July 9 to place the item on the November ballot if it failed at the Aug. 7 Special Election. Clerk of Courts Barbara Dobb submitted the paperwork, due Aug. 8, to the Lorain County Board of Elections.
Zilka felt that misinformation, a low voter turnout and a misunderstanding by some in the public might have contributed to the levy’s demise, especially concerning “soft billing,” where an individual’s insurance company is billed for ambulance rides. Last year soft billing generated $390,000 that went into the city’s General Fund.
“There is a misunderstanding that soft billing is not being used for paramedic expenses,” Zilka said. “By law it must go into the General Fund. But more than that amount was spent (from the General Fund) on the paramedic system.”
Zilka said that the city must do a better job establish and clarifying that the General Fund has subsidized Paramedic Fund.
The general fund subsidizes operations by 61.1 percent.
"The fire deposits close to $400,000 into the general fund (through soft billing) and withdrawals $2,481,333.42 for fire and paramedic expenses," Eisenhardt said in an email. "The soft billing does subsidize the paramedic service."
The mayor said he was frustrated after receiving two “robocalls” at his house in the week leading up to the election urging voters not to support the levy.
“The robocall didn’t have a disclaimer,” Zilka said. “We Didn’t know who it was or who paid for it. It was disappointing.”
He noted the second call was cut off and a technical glitch may have prevented the required information, including who was paying for the call.
Zilka also said that the city and fire department would have a contingency plan in place if the November issue fails as well.
“This isn’t a scare tactic,” Zilka said. “It would be irresponsible to wait until after the levy. We have to develop a plan in advance and it’s not to scare people, but we need to have one. We just have to do it. We have to work on an alternative plan.
“It’s a quality of life issue.”
Charter Amendment Will Not Go On Ballot
A charter amendment requiring the Board of Municipal Utilities to meet on a different night than council that received tacit support will not go back on the November ballot.
Chief Utilities Executive Todd Danielson had expressed hope the issue could return to the ballot in November after it narrowly passed, but Avon Lake Council did not pass legislation to move the item to the Lorain County Board of Elections by the Aug. 8 deadline.
It’s got to be voted through by City Council and it has to be presented to the board of election by today,” Councilman Larry Meiners said on Aug. 8. “Todd might not understand the process that it has to go through city council, which is on break through Aug. 20.
“There’s no way possible it can be put back on the November ballot. “