The Boulder Junction Town Board met with the Boulder Junction Volunteer Fire Department on Sept. 5 to address some of the department’s concerns with its budget.
Part of the purpose of the meeting was to have an open conversation between the fire department and the town board so the board could gain some direction in setting the town’s budget.
“In several meetings with the fire department, there have been suggestions coming forward that the budget lines are not as intuitive as they might be as far as how the department treasurer directs the payment of the invoice,” town supervisor Jim Galloway said.
According to Galloway, there had been discussion about renaming or combining budget lines.
While these were some of the budget-related items the board wanted to resolve during the meeting, one brought to the board’s attention by the fire department revolved around revenues collected from the ambulance and how they were applied to their two designated funds
“It seems like, the way our budget is set up we’ve had two primary accounts,” firefighter Paul Newberg said. “We got our 52000 group numbers, which is our fire and EMS expenses and revenues, and we’ve got out 70000 group, which is our donation funds.”
Newberg said the department’s fire fund wasn’t reflected in the budget worksheet the department had received.
“Which is the same as the account that was started from that ambulance revenue thing, which is billed by LifeQuest,” Newberg said. “As a fire department, we don’t get any accounting of what’s billed, what’s collected. It doesn’t show up on here anywhere so we know what’s being spent from it.”
Newberg said he knew what was being spent from it because the department had asked the board permission to make purchases from the fire fund account, but that it “didn’t show up” on their paperwork as an account.
Issues with LifeQuest
Galloway asked the department if they saw any accounting of the revenues due the ambulance.
“Do you see the billing at all?” Galloway asked.
The department said they hadn’t.
“Let’s back up on that, though,” EMS director Daniell Wahlgren said. “We do have access to the reports that LifeQuest submits, I don’t ever see checks or anything like that coming into town.”
Galloway clarified the department could verify LifeQuest was billing for the appropriate number of runs.
“So, then this is a matter of just deciding how the dispersement from check get credited to various lines,” Galloway said. “And right now, is it 25/75, 25 to the ambulance fund, 75 to the fire fund?”
Another concern was with people not paying the bill from LifeQuest.
“If a lot of people don’t pay, that’s how those numbers can be off,” firefighter Jason Maurer said.
According to Newberg, when the department had initially started with LifeQuest, it had been determined the department wouldn’t pursue anything beyond the initial billing.
Galloway suggested the department could get into contact with other departments to see what billing agencies they used.
‘It’s a team effort’
Though the department initially believed they didn’t receive an accounting of the revenues due the ambulance, after some discussion, it was found that they did.
“I didn’t know that this was coming up today, and I apologize, but all this information that you guys are looking for, the paper trail, as Paul said, it’s all on that site,” Wahlgren said. “I’m looking right at it.”
According to Wahlgren, he could see the expenditures, as well as what checks were written and where the money was coming out of.
“We just don’t get a paper copy,” Wahlgren said.
Wahlgren said if Driscoll wanted access to the document, he could set that up.
The board and fire department then discussed combining and separating line items.
“It’s a team effort here,” town chairman Dennis Reuss said. “And if anything’s an asset, our fire department and EMS is the town’s true asset.”
Reuss directed the department to write their suggestions on the budget worksheet.
“This town board isn’t the origin for these lines,” Galloway said. “We’re more than happy to modify them.”
Ultimately decided members of the fire department would meet with Driscoll to discuss those items before bringing it back to the board for its direction.
The board also directed the department to build a budget based on its needs.
Newberg said he had a statement he wanted to share.
“We’re at a new time with new people working together to be accountable and transparent to our department, the town board and our community,” Newberg said.
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]