Monday, September 30, 2002

RE: Utah Taxpayers Association Finds Large Hole in Salt Lake County’s Ambulance Plan, Asks Council Members to Vote Against Measure
CONTACT: Mike Jerman, Vice President, 972-8814 (cell 808-8 814)

, 972-8814 (cell 808-8814)

Salt Lake City, UT – The Utah Taxpayers Association today asked Salt Lake County Council members to act responsibly and vote against the proposed measure to socialize ambulance care in the County. The County Council is currently considering a plan to bring ambulance service under the purview of their government-run fire department. A plan they say could generate $500,000 in profits. “Not true,” says Mike Jerman, Vice President of the Utah Taxpayers Association. “By our calculations, the County could lose more than $1 million a year. That’s a bad deal for everyone.”
Ambulance companies generate revenue through fees charged for transportation from an accident or other place of emergency medical need to the hospital. The County’s plan, based on 2001 call volume, projects 10,246 total transports. However, the actual number of transports in 2001 was less than 7,500. This mistake amounts to a loss of more than $2,120,229 in billable revenue and a net loss of $912,000 annually.
Furthermore, the County bases its calculations on an average transport fee of $773. The actual average statewide fee is much lower. When accounting for this discrepancy, the County could actually lose an additional half-million dollars annually.
The County’s plan also makes optimistic assumptions about its anticipated collection and write-off rates which could hugely impact the County’s bottom line.

The County’s plan also does not consider the tax impact on public education by pushing out a private sector provider. Privately-owned companies like Gold Cross pay corporate income taxes and property taxes that fund public education and also pay sales taxes that fund higher education.
The Taxpayers Association also contends that government has no place competing against privately owned businesses. “We fight battles like this all the time. Somebody in government has the idea of buying a golf course or opening a health club because they think their county or city can provide a better service at a lower price” Jerman said. “Invariably it’s the same result; no noticeable improvement in service and a huge bill for taxpayers. The private sector has a built-in incentive to control costs whereas governments can simply raise taxes when costs get out of control”.
Gold Cross Ambulance was requested by the County in 1980 to take over 911-ambulance traffic from the County in 1980 because the County no longer wanted to continue to operate the system. For the last twenty years, Gold Cross has invested in infrastructure, training, equipment and real estate to service the area. They’ve also invested an enormous amount of time and energy developing a public-private partnership with Salt Lake County and other municipalities. “We don’t want to let the camel’s nose in this tent” says Jerman. “If the County socializes ambulance service, what’s to stop them from taking over other services provided by the private sector?”
This isn’t the first time a municipality has contemplated taking ambulance service out of the private sector. “In 1996, Salt Lake City decided against socializing their ambulance service,” said Jerman “because they couldn’t make the budget work to the City’s taxpayers’ advantage”. Salt Lake County needs to make the same decision.
The bottom-line here, according to Jerman, is that “Gold Cross ambulance is doing a good job at providing a quality service at a fair price. The County should not expose taxpayers to the financial risk of losing millions of dollars tilting at this windmill and put a well-run company out of business. Salt Lake County Council members need to reject this proposal”