Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Here's An Idea For Cutting Millions From The City Budget

The City of Indianapolis' public safety budget is the largest, single component of its budget. Mayor Peterson's plan to consolidate all the township fire departments into a single city-wide fire department would supposedly save $8.8 million a year in a combined budget of $177 million per year. If the Mayor really wanted to squeeze out far more savings from the fire department's budget, he could privatize the EMS services currently provided by IFD. You may be surprised to learn that at least 50% of the calls IFD receives are for EMS and not fire runs. To provide EMS services, all IFD recruits are required to be EMT-certified. Maintaining that certification is not inexpensive. And those EMS services can get in the way of the firefighting services. A Sacramento firefighter recounted this occurrence in performing his duties:

"And, when we were fourth on scene to a structure fire approximately 10 houses down the street from the firehouse at 3 a.m. because we were on a bogus medical aid call at a woman's shelter for a 25-year old female who had been feeling ill for three days, it really grates on me to know that there are people like you who actually think that most firefighters WANT to do EMS." "EMS is a necessary evil in the fire service." Sacramento Firefighter Aaron Dean.

A former high ranking member of the Goldsmith administration once told me that the former administration had considered privatizing the EMS services as a cost-saving move, but the resistance within IFD and its union was more than Goldsmith was willing to tackle. Similarly, I worked on a project several years ago, along with a private consultant, for a northwestern Indiana city, where we identified millions in potential savings by privatizing the EMS services. That plan got dumped as well because of union and departmental resistance.

Other cities around the country have privatized these services, and it's typically not welcomed by firefighters and their unions. "These are tough economic times and local governments are being forced to reduce spending," Andrew Rand of Advanced Medical Transport of Illinois told Peoria Magazine. "Today’s firefighters spend less than 15 percent of their time fighting fires." "They realize they have to find something to do with their time to justify their staffing levels and budgets. Frankly, they’re scared that the government is ultimately going to have to reduce their size."

About 85% of IFD's annual budget is for salaries, pensions and related personnel costs. If private companies like Rural/Metro can provide these same services within the City adequately and save taxpayers millions at the same time, it's an idea the Mayor and the city-county council should seriously consider. Given that the City-County Council is run by a high-paid firefighter, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this to happen.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Get your facts right before you post. The $8.8 million dollar suggested/never proven savings is from the consolidation of IPD and MCSD-law enfforcement not IFD and township fire departments. The consolidation of IPD and MCSD will never save money. The costs of doing it are eating up everything they lied about to get it passed. Every city in the country that has consolidated law enforcement agencies told the mayor and others it will cost money. They continued lieing about it and made deals to get it passed. Citizens and leos are now suffering because of it. The fire consolidation is based on getting rid of several firemen, closing down several fire houses and getting rid of fire equiptment. What do you need when your house is on fire? Firemen the closest fire house to respond and the equiptment to put the fire out.

Tell BArt and the other stupid councilors that want to do this to stop it. DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM IN NOVEMBER. IF THEY SPENT HALF OF OUR TAX DOLLARS THAT THEY SPENT ON THE FOOTBALL STADIUM AND LIBRARY WE WOULDN'T BE IN THE MESS WE ARE IN NOW!!!

Anonymous said...

It was reported today on the 6:00 news on Channel 8, the City Market has run out of maoney and has to borrow money to finish the renovation. They already had a $500,000.oo cost overrun.

I wonder who did the math for this construction project?

Advance Indiana said...

Anon 7:46, you need to click on the link. That's what the Indy Chamber reported--$8.8 million in annual savnigs from fire department consolidation.

Wilson46201 said...

The township unionized firefighters (Local #416) seem to be enthusiastically supporting fire department consolidations.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen rural-metro in action? Scary doesn't even begin to cover it.

Anonymous said...

"privitizing" EMS would be a disservice for the tax payers of Marion County who already pay for an ambulance service through health and hospital. But the fire departments and city want the "money" from the transports that has proven that it does not make money.

Advance Indiana said...

It's true that ambulance services are provided through Wishard; however, IFD provides the first response for EMS; hence the requirement that all IFD recruits be EMT-certified. The idea is that IFD would get out of the business of providing EMS and stick to its core mission--fire suppression.

Karen Goldner said...

Be careful what you wish for - in Fort Wayne we have privatized EMS and the price of runs is VERY high. Plus FWFD still responds to every call (including medical) and is usually there first.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that something is up. Wishard Ambulances no longer have any markings but their unit and EMS numbers. I have heard rumor after rumor. One was that IFD was getting out of the medical service business. I guess they were looking at dumping their own paramedics and leave that stuff to someone else. With Wishard, the rumor I heard was that they really did not know what was going on. There was even a hint that IU might take over the service. I know that some EMS/paramedic classes are held at IUPUI, but I don't know if IU/IUPUI has anything to do besides renting out space. Considering all the medical education at IUPUI, maybe they will take over the EMS portion. If it is a loser in terms of money, I doubt they will. However, I know for a fact that Wishard charged $900 for a three block transport with fluids. They likely used all of $6.00 in gas and I am not sure how much the medics make, but if you can charge for that kind of service, you likely can make money. If it makes money, IU likely will be interested.

Anonymous said...

IFD getting out of the EMS business would be great then they would save money by closing half the firehouses and laying off half the force.