Lake EMS director under fire over rate increase request



The leaders of Lake County's ambulance service are taking some heat over a request for a rate increase.

The criticism went up a notch after it was learned EMS will have hundreds of thousands of dollars left over at the end of the current budget year.

A rate increase won't happen, and now EMS management may have to work to re-establish their credibility.

It takes $16 million a year to run Lake County's ambulance service and some county leaders say at least for this year, not a penny more.

Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner is also on the EMS board of directors, whose members were not happy when the nonprofit's management asked for a rate increase.

"There will be many eyes of scrutiny in the future over this, not just mine," said Conner. "They really didn't need the rate increase because they already had the money."

After Conner and other board members refused to sign off on the rate hike, EMS leaders revealed they had $300,000 in reserve.  

"We never intentionally misled the board or misrepresented the facts. I couldn't hide a dime if I wanted to," EMS Executive Director Jim Judge said.

Judge says EMS has cut $1 million from its budget, including through multiple layoffs, and the ambulance service will cut another 5 percent during the next budget year. But from now on, board members like Conner want to know about every dime up front.

"My confidence was shaken because; No. 1, here was $300,000 that appeared in the second budget, but not in the first budget. So, that shakes your confidence," said Conner.

Last year, Sumter County pulled out of its agreement with Lake for what was a two-county ambulance service.

Sumter hired a private company to attend to patients there.