Anderson County budget includes increase in millage for EMS

By Stan Welch
The proposed county budget for FY 2017-2018, if adopted as is, promises to benefit two area rescue squads. The budget calls for an increase in the millage reserved for EMS services.
A half mill would be added under the proposed budget to the EMS levy to meet the obligations of the EMS providers and the terms of a new medical control contract, which is currently being negotiated with the EMS providers. Despite a study of the county’s emergency medical services that lasted for several months, no change of responsibility or structure within the system has been enacted. Services, as currently provided, will be extended for a full year.
Both Pelzer and Belton stand to benefit from the additional funding, as they are the number two and number three providers of emergency medical services, based on the percentage of calls answered. Pelzer, which for several years has also served the Powdersville area, and which maintains a station in that area, handles 13.8 per cent of the call volume, while Belton handles 7.8 per cent.
Medshore, the 800 pound gorilla of the county’s EMS system, handles 52.5 per cent. Two years ago, when the Williamston Rescue Squad failed financially, Medshore stepped in and assumed operations for that district. Medshore is a privately owned and operated service which contracts with the county to provide service.
All rescue squads are subsidized by the county, based largely on the percentage of calls handled.
Pelzer received $810,000 in 2015, while Belton received $570,000.
Pelzer also runs non-emergent and convalescent transports, (dialysis, for example) in order to augment their income. Such transports can be performed by employees of a lower level of training, in ambulances that may not be as fully equipped as the primary responding units. Those factors allow the non-emergent transports to be made at a lower cost, and a higher return.
Pelzer has a staff of forty eight, half of whom are full time. According to the EMS study recently conducted by Fitch & Associates, the Pelzer squad has “operated close to the ‘break even’ point for the last three years.” During that time, the squad has invested in new vehicles and  equipment.
The Belton squad, according to the Fitch study, operates two ambulances out of two stations. For fiscal years 2013 -2015, the squad showed a modest profit. The Belton squad does not invest in new equipment at the level which Pelzer does,  and described its ambulances as old, when responding  to the Fitch study.
They also perform numerous convalescent and non-emergent calls to augment their revenues. The squad has thirty one employees, including fourteen full time. The staff includes fifteen paramedics and ten EMTs.
The estimated value of a mill in the proposed budget is six hundred thousand dollars.