City councilors approve every fee increase that is being considered

April 25, 2013

This group of Tulsa City Councilors “never met a tax they didn’t like.”

The Council recently voted to grant increases in the cost of ambulance service by EMSA in Tulsa. They voted for increases after stories of lavish overspending by the EMSA director surfaced. And there were recent reports indicating that EMSA was using funds in Tulsa to subsidize operations elsewhere. And people who were paying a monthly fee with their water  bills for emergency ambulance service were getting billed for service that should have been covered.

A state audit of EMSA is forcing some corrections in those questionable practices.

In 2012, the councilors approved a $200.00 hike in the emergency transport rate from $1,100.00 to $1,300.00. That hike was recently reconsidered and reconfirmed.

Councilors said OK to $1,300 even though EMSA admits that the actual cost of an emergency run is $433. EMSA argues that it must overcharge paying customers to make up for deficits caused by transporting patients who cannot or will not pay.

If you have private health insurance, your company will pay the $1,300.00. If you are covered by the monthly surcharge on your water bill, there is no increase (so far) and EMSA will not increase the charges for Medicare or Medicaid patients.

Councilors made the dubious argument that had they not approved the $200.00 increase, the cost deficits would have to come from the general fund. But when the Council agreed to put an EMSA surcharge on the water bills, that was supposed to generate more than enough to cover the cost of ambulance service for the city.

It takes a lot of work to get the city to take that surcharge off the water bill. Most Tulsans pay it without much thought because it is part of the incrementalism that government loves to employ to “nickel and dime” taxpayers.

Next year, EMSA will come back for more money and because these councilors have little concern for Tulsans on fixed incomes and poor people, they will OK another increase. Councilors have already conceded that water and sewer bills must go up every year.

Thanks to local government, it’s difficult to be poor and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma.