When Largo City Commissioners decided recently to fight a proposed cut and funding freeze to the county’s emergency medical services budget, they asked neighboring communities to support them in their efforts.
Facing a possible 10-year freeze to the EMS budget that could cost the city more than $770,000, Safety Harbor City officials agreed on Monday night to do just that.
“We’ve got an EMS issue looming, and I know that Largo took some action,” Mayor Andy Steingold mentioned during his Commission Report.
“It’s going to affect us, not as great in the first year as Largo, but perhaps we need to participate, so I wanted to inquire to see if we need to take action or not take action and see what the recommendation of the city attorney would be.”
Safety Harbor City Attorney Alan Zimmet, who is also the city attorney for Largo, explained to the commission what would be required of city officials should they agree to become participants in the upcoming mediation process.
“Safety Harbor can basically participate in one of two ways, you can just participate or you can become what is called a primary party to the process,” Zimmet said.
“The only difference between becoming a participant and a primary participant is that if you are a primary participant you get to…be involved in the decisions about timing, when meetings are going to be held and things of that nature.”
Spoor explained that the cuts would not immediately affect the personnel or services in Safety Harbor but would have a “trickle down effect” to the city’s finances; with an average yearly increase to the EMS budget of 3 percent, a freeze would force officials to make up the difference via other methods such as raising the ad velorem tax or taking money from the general fund.
“Matt passed out a piece of paper that shows how the EMS funding would affect Safety Harbor, and you can see that the county has proposed freezing it for 2014-15, ’15-’16 and ’16-’17 without even taking into our consideration our budget and what is reasonable and customary to our city,” Mayor Steingold said.
“So I think it’s going to have an impact…and I think we should either be a participant or a primary participant, because over 10 years, what’s been proposed will have an impact to the effect of $773,000.”
Safety Harbor Fire Chief Joe Accetta said he was “in agreement with moving forward with something”, while some of the commissioners asked what would be required of them before agreeing to participate.
“If we participate…is it going to be help being there as a supporting group, because we’re somewhat of a small fish?” Commissioner Carlos Diaz asked.
“If we agree to participate, we don’t have to go to litigation?” Vice Mayor Cliff Merz inquired.
After being told that participating would not require the city to take part in legal action but merely show support for the other parties fighting the matter, the commission unanimously agreed to participate in the process.