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City Worries Over Paramedic Funding

City Worries Over Paramedic Funding

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinal via YellowBrix

February 09, 2010

SHOREWOOD — Municipal leaders throughout Milwaukee County voiced fears Monday that they would soon be saddled with paying the full cost of paramedic services, either through restructuring county government or through county budget cuts.

County Executive Scott Walker later sought to put those fears to rest, vowing to oppose any move that would leave cities and villages without paramedic funding.

“You’d better be prepared not to have the (paramedic funding) from the county,” Oak Creek Mayor Richard Bolender warned fellow mayors and village presidents at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council. “I think it’s just going to die. . . . I have a bad feeling about this.”

Bolender said he expected the cash-strapped county to cut off funding for the service within a year or two. Others, such as Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, were concerned about what would happen to paramedics and other services if state and county officials dismantle or revamp county government, as discussed in a recent report by the Public Policy Forum.

That report, commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, talks about giving municipalities responsibility for running paramedic service and maintaining county highways, “but I didn’t hear anything about the transfer of dollars or revenue,” Taylor said. Funding also would be a problem if municipalities had to take over county parks, he added.

The paramedic system divides the county into five zones in which communities share paramedic service with each other. The county pays $3 million in subsidies to communities where paramedic units are based, plus $3.8 million more to provide paramedic training and medical supervision. But municipal governments are already spending at least $2 million to $3 million of their own money to supplement county funding, Taylor said.

Taylor is the chairman of the council, which includes representatives of the county and every municipal government within its boundaries. He said municipal officials should be involved in debates about the county’s future because shifting control of services could have a major impact on their governments and budgets.

South Milwaukee Mayor Tom Zepecki urged municipal leaders to focus their efforts on the paramedic service, because “it works great” and local governments would want to keep it, but would be hard-pressed to do so without county funding.

After the meeting, Walker said support for paramedic service “is going to continue to be a core part of our relationship with all 19 municipalities.” Speaking both as county executive and as a Republican candidate for governor, Walker said any plan to transfer control of paramedics or other services should have the support of municipal governments.