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Fayetteville fire company says it has improved its finances

April 05, 2007|by DON AINES

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - After a few years of shaky finances that threatened to end its emergency medical services, Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Co. officials say they have gotten control of expenditures and are rebuilding revenue, with the ambulance service finishing the first quarter of 2007 in the black.

With the bottom line coming out of the red, officials say there are no plans to close the service, which operates basic and advanced life support ambulances and a paramedic unit primarily serving Greene and Guilford townships.

The surplus was small, with revenue of $140,807 versus expenditures of $140,488 for a surplus of about $319, according to figures provided by Todd Stonesifer of the accounting firm Rotz & Stonesifer. However, that compares with a deficit for the fire company of approximately $123,000 in 2005, and $107,000 in 2006, according to Stonesifer's figures.

On March 13, the Greene Township Board of Supervisors voted to pay the fire company $45 for each nonemergency ambulance run made in 2006, a total of $23,715, on the condition that it provide documentation and supply the township with regular reports.

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"Their financials have improved over the last two years," Supervisor Todd Burns said. "We didn't request the information back to 2005, but they provided it."

"They've made some good strides in the last couple of months," Supervisor Charles D. Jamison said. The 2006 and 2007 information was just received by the township, and the money for 2006 has not yet been paid.

Once the money is received, it will be applied to reducing the 2006 deficit, Stonesifer said.

The fire company did not make nonemergency transports in 2005 and did not resume them until September 2006, said Emergency Services Chief Ryan Elborne, who took over the position in December. The decision to end the transports was made under a previous administration, said Chuck Bumbaugh, the chief since June 2006.

Those transports, taking patients to and from hospitals, nursing homes and other clients, were an important revenue source, Bumbaugh said. Guilford Township also pays the company a fee on transports, and the townships have provided financial support in other ways, he said.

"We decided we needed to get back to that real fast," he said, but license renewal took until September. It has also taken time to rebuild a customer base because clients contracted with other services in the meantime.

Figures showed the company billed $5,148 for nonemergency transports in January, $7,877 in February and $10,475 in March. Bumbaugh said there is a potential for up to $120,000 from those runs this year, about the same as the deficit the company ran in 2005.

In addition to restarting the transports, Elborne said the medical service tightened its belt in other ways, reducing the number of full-time ambulance personnel from about 15 to four, and filling vacancies as they occurred with part-time emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Those part-time positions now number 25, he said.

Elborne said the reductions in full-time staff were done "completely through attrition." Ambulance personnel left for better opportunities or because of uncertainty and frustration with the service's financial condition, but no one was laid off, Bumbaugh said.

Reduced Medicare and Medicaid payments for services also contributed to the past deficits, something all medical-related services have experienced, the chief said. In another move to build revenue, he said the company updated the residential list within its service area for the first time in years and more than doubled its ambulance subscription mailings to 15,000.

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