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Milwaukee County Board Votes to Restore Some EMS Funding

Supervisor approves $1.5 million in emergency services subsidies to municipalities, but there are strings attached to deal.

The Milwaukee County Board Monday — on a veto-proof vote of 15-4 — approved a budget amendment that would restore $1.5 million to the county’s Emergency Medical Services subsidy.

The amendment was presented by the board’s Finance Committee in response to that the 19 county municipalities would have received in 2012 for EMS personnel and training. 

However, there are conditions on the money:

  • The current EMS contract between the county and the municipalities is voided;
  • Funds will be distributed according to percentages determined by the County Board and not the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council or local fire chiefs; and
  • Municipalities must work toward creating cooperative efforts (similar to the which serves  Bayside, Brown Deer, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, or the agreement between the City of Milwaukee, West Milwaukee, St. Francis and Cudahy).

If the municipalities don’t agree to the conditions, the board will withhold the subsidy.  

Supervisors Mark Borkowski, Willie Johnson, Joe Sanfelippo and James "Luigi" Schmitt voted against the measure.

Those backing the amendment said since the funds were county dollars, the board, not the ICC — a coalition of county municipal governments — or fire chiefs should decide how the funds are distributed. Supervisors also said the issue of consolidation must be studied closely.

Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, who represents West Milwaukee and the near south and southeast sides of Milwaukee, was the most vocal in her support of the new distribution formula.

“Who made the formula? The ICC. Who is Milwaukee’s representative on the ICC? Who represents the diversity of this county?” she asked. “Do we want our diverse body to do this or them? Did they add to their budgets or increase fees to cover this cost? No.”

Supervisor John Weishan, who represents West Allis and portions of Greenfield and Milwaukee, said it is hard to argue that Franklin needs a subsidy when you look at that community's median income and property values and compare them to Milwaukee.

But Sanfelippo said the suburbs shouldn’t be punished because they are aren't diverse enough. He said it was best to rely the input of the fire chiefs and mayors because they are the experts in what the emergency needs are for their cities.

An amendment offered by Supervisor Patricia Jursik was similar to the one that passed, but it did not end the current contract or change the subsidy distribution formula. It failed on a 12-7 vote.

Borkowski offered two amendments, both of which would have restored the full $3 million to the EMS program. One would have increased the county's property tax levy by the full amount, with Borkowski saying people are willing to pay for EMS with tax dollars. That measure failed on a 10-9 vote, after Jursik switched her “aye” to a “nay.”

Borkowski’s second measure would have lessened the levy increase to $2 million, with the remaining $1 million taken from the fund to move the county’s mental health services from institutional to community-based.  That measure also failed on a 15-4 vote.

Under the new distribution plan, the EMS subsidy would be allocated as follows:

  • City of Milwaukee: $725,000
  • North Shore Fire Department: $150,000
  • South Milwaukee: $125,000
  • Oak Creek: $100,000
  • Franklin: $100,000
  • Greenfield: $100,000
  • West Allis: $100,000
  • Wauwatosa: $100,000

The amendment came at the County Board on Monday took up Abele's 2012 budget.

Abele has said that he will veto any budget items that increase the 2012 property tax levy over the $269 million levy set for 2011.  

jeffrey November 08, 2011 at 03:01 PM
So we have a 3 million dollar budget, and we restore only 1.5 million of it? Prepare for some slower response times. To the residents of Milwauee county, what is your life worth? I realize "you will never need the paramedic service, because you are perfectly healthy" but trust me, someday you will. Every dollar you "saved" you'll wish you would of spent, when it's YOUR life on the line. Maybe your park and recreation program, or your 6 million dollar library can save you...Sleep well in you ignorance.
Michael Neitzke November 08, 2011 at 04:12 PM
“Who made the formula? The ICC. Who is Milwaukee’s representative on the ICC? Who represents the diversity of this county?” she asked. “Do we want our diverse body to do this or them? Did they add to their budgets or increase fees to cover this cost? No.” The formula was negotiated among all of the municipalities recognizing that the Fire Chiefs understood the system better than anyone. The City of Milwaukee's Mayor, and the County Executive sit on the ICC. Each Mayor and Village President in Milwaukee County sits on the ICC. We represent the exact same people the County Board does. I think some honest questions need to be asked: Does a diverse body make better decisions, or does an intelligent one? Has the County demonstrated good decision-making over the last decade and a half? What have they done well? Are Supervisors Weishan and Dimitrijevic more diverse than say me or Mayor Didier?
Michael Neitzke November 08, 2011 at 04:13 PM
More specifically to the paramedic issue: Do the Supervisors realize that not all communities have paramedics (St. Francis, Cudahy, Hales Corners) or are in the midst of creating a program (Greendale)? Does Supervisor Weishan know that Franklin and Greenfield provide paramedics to Hales Corners and Greendale, or that Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, and Milwaukee provide paramedics to St. Francis and Cudahy, or that we all provide paramedics to each other when the need arises? Do the supervisors realize that the number of paramedics has grown from about 150 when the program started to over 300 now, while County funding has declined and responsibilities have continued to shift to the communities? How do the Supervisors that voted for the ultimate result because they wanted to promote consolidation, explain the cut to the North Shore which IS consolidated?
Michael Neitzke November 08, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Finally, kudos to Supervisor Borkowski and the diverse group that supported his initial Amendment. He has sat on the EMS Council for a very long time and understands the complicated issues and nature of the system.

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