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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.

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

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 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 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. “

Noah Webster August 13, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Chief's Comment. You miss the point. I know in your view Fire and EMS is one in the same from a day to day management perspective. However, this about the EMS tax levy increase not the fire department that is funded from the General Fund. The fact is that there is no accounting to show how much of the insurance collections are applied by the Fire Dept to EMS expenses. All health and Medicare insurance collection should be earmarked to support EMS directly so we can determine how much of a tax increase is needed to fund the EMS budget. That difference is what the tax levy should fill. Further if there is 60% increase in the EMS tax levy, how much insurance collections will be needed for EMS. If none is needed then the EMS levy increase is not really for EMS. If this is true then soft billing is collecting $390,000 or so, is for the general fund expenses and only the 61% you stated that is spent for the Fire Department. Taxpayers don't pay health insurance and Medicare premiums so their benefits are used to pay for the fire department and mowing lawns or pay raises. That is wrong and not fair to taxpayers.
Noah Webster August 13, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Confused in AL. I lived in St Louis County for 32 years. Regional approaches can comprise all variety of consolidations. Small municipalities like the size of Avon Lake were consolidated into Districts. Most of West County communities are now consolidated. Actually many were consolidated over time past the 60's. Other larger cities like some Clayton,Mo are large enough and have the economic base to support their municipal services. It helps to have lived through the process to have a good understanding of the advantages. And yes, the district-wide taxing authority helps spread the burden over a wide economic base. So the whole district benefits from the big malls and the consolidated economic base. Here, Avon has all the commercial tax base, paid for with many of our dollars but it does nothing to help fund our fire protection. Does that make sense ? No. And that's why St Louis County and many American communities have consolidated or are in the process. It's not just a different taxing authority, it's a whole different and smarter way to tax and provide a common level of services throughout the district.
Erin M August 14, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I am noticing a trend on this site, if Ms. Switaj doesn't like your comment or thinks you are being disrespectful she will delete your post. And now that this thread is in moderation, I am sure she will not post this either.
Lori E. Switaj August 14, 2012 at 05:03 PM
EM, if a term violates our terms of use (http://avon-oh.patch.com/terms) it will be removed. One comment on this thread, which contained inaccurate information, was removed after I consulted with several parties involved. Please note: Cross posted articles (those on other Patch sites as well as this one) can also have comments deleted by other editors. It is not an issue of whether I "like" a comment or not.
joe mama October 31, 2012 at 10:17 AM
If we miss handle are funds as citizens and home owners we have to tighten our belts and so should our local government. Please stop covering up the fact that the levy is for a general fund shortage and stop threatening the city with cuts to our safety services and make the necessary operational cuts and balance to budget.

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