12-29-1999, 01:48 PM #1ChiefDogFirehouse.com Guest
Billing Non-taxpayers for Response?
I am the Chief of a Paid on-call department in Northern Vermont. We are going through our yearly budget battle and the "Town Fathers" are wanting us look into billing for accidents and vehicle fires. I have been asked/told to find out if this is possible and what policies other departments have. One of the concerns has been that the Taxpayers have already paid for the department to respond. However, the guy from the neighboring State or Country has not contributed anything towards paying for our response to their "bad day".
It comes down to money and who is going to pay. Our town is served by an independant ambulance service that bills for response. This is where the Town got the idea. Any constructive advise or information will be appreciated.
12-29-1999, 02:32 PM #2Lieutenant GonzoFirehouse.com Guest
Although I am a career firefighter, I view the volunteer forums to see what's happening, because we all share the same things (both good and bad).
From what I gather from reading your post, the Town fathers want you to bill the neighboring communities/state/country for services that you render on mutual aid. Do they include billing the residents of your community for emergency services? Are the Town Fathers prepared to receive a bill from your neighboring public safety departments when they respond to your communities "bad days"? Will the funds collected be allocated back to your Department for personnel and equipment or will they go into the town's general funds?
There are some things that a department can charge a fee for, such as permits, smoke detector inspections, fire safety details, nuisiance alarm systems (in effect, charging for babysitting)and for some emergency responses such as hazmat incidents, etc. FD billing for EMS services (if it provides ambulance services) usually comes back to the Department for training, personnel costs, equipment and supplies.
Keep us updated, this could get interesting!
Take care and be safe...Lt. Gonzo
12-29-1999, 02:41 PM #3SNOWMANFirehouse.com Guest
Our department bills for responses even if they are paying members of our fire protection area. Our funding levels are not very high and the monies that are collected enable us (volunteers) to MAKE a response (ie: station, heat, lights, trucks, PPE, radios, etc). Once we are able to be a viable Fire Department, we feel that it should be at least partially USER funded (ie: fuel, tires, foam, wear and tear on equipment). We typically bill a homeowner's insurance company for response. This costs the homeowner nothing and the typical insurance benefit for Fire Department response is $500 to $1000. We have found that billing for vehicle accidents is a little different. The insurance companies have refused to pay UNLESS there was an actual fire or extrication involved. If there was a fire or extrication, we have not had a problem. I should also add that we do not pursue payment if none is made (probably shouldn't let that info out!). Billing will add a little more work for your Treasurer, but we think it is well worth it.
12-29-1999, 11:20 PM #4ChiefDogFirehouse.com Guest
A little clarification: Hopefully not too long...
Lt.Gonzo: They want to pay our costs so I am pretty sure they will put the money in our budget. I do not see them doing creative accounting. Plus they are audited and any CPA would have a field day with things too creative.
The Town does not want to charge for all calls, or for Mutual Aide that we respond to.
I think they understand the benefits of Mutual Aide. (I know some of them do / should.) I could tell you stories but...
Structure fires etc are covered by the taxes that are collected from the property taxes (Funding based on the Grand List of land and Buildings in Town/Village). Guess I did not make that clear in the original post.
What they are concerned with are the incidents (vehicle accidents and vehicle fires) that we respond to for property that is not owned by Town residents. We have high volume State roads and Interstate that we cover. Because of this they do not want to foot the bill for someone out of Town using our services and not paying their share of the cost of the response.
I think I put in the original post, We are paid on-call. We average about $125 in payroll alone for each response. This does not include anything like fuel, having the vehicles to respond with or any other associated cost of being a F.D. I know that to most people the cost is peanuts, but I know of a near by department who's operating budget is $5,000 LESS than what we spent in payroll 1999.
You must remember VT is behind the times with most emergency services. We have a bunch of people that have moved in and think police/fire/ems is like it is on TV. Or like Boston, New York etc. They have no concept that the fire department can not possibly run on $100,000 a year and have unlimited resources. Then you have the old timers that do not like change and do not want to pay for anything...
I knew it was a big can of worms and I really did not want to open it.
I can say that we are looking at ordinances for repeated alarms with nothing found, open burning without a permit, etc.
The whole State of Vermont went online with E911 and we have seen a 40% increase in calls. Some of them legitimate but some not.
They have seen this and are running scared because of what it does to the operating costs.
I appreciate your input, keep it coming.
12-29-1999, 11:37 PM #5KATN61Firehouse.com Guest
hiya chief,My dept. and surrounding dept. bill for our accident responses. We tried doing the billing procedures ourselves, but that was very time consuming, so we went with a billing company. They strictly bill for fire dept.'s only. They take a small % and they keep after the insurance companies to pay because that is the only way they make money.There has been only one insurance company that refuses to pay for accident responses but will pay if it is a vehicle fire. Some surrounding municipalities have adopted ordinances, so if they dont pay, then the municipality gets involved. The ordinances are for accidents and alarm bells. We dont have any ordinances but i think in my state of Pa, there is a bill on the house floor helping volunteer companies bill. Hoped that helped.
12-30-1999, 06:58 AM #6BigBossFirehouse.com Guest
Thanks for posting the clarification, saved me a phone call to you.
Sometime after the holiday, I will contact the legal staff at the VLCT, to see what the legal take on this issue is in the state.
12-30-1999, 11:00 AM #7Hammerhead338Firehouse.com Guest
The volly dept that I used to be on billed the owner for a car fire and the owner for a tractor trailer fire. On wrecks they would only bill the tractor trailer companys, they would not bill the car owners. The reason behind this was the longer time involved in working the accidents.
Have a good day and be safe.
12-30-1999, 04:13 PM #8Lieutenant GonzoFirehouse.com Guest
Thanks for the clarification. Don't worry about opening a can of worms...consider it bait for catching some new ideas!
Take care and be safe...Lt. Gonzo
01-01-2000, 09:03 AM #9jboczekFirehouse.com Guest
I'm chief in a small paid on call dept. in So. IL. We are able, by state law, to bill for calls that involve out of district cars, trucks,etc. if the party is not from a district which we have a mutual aid agreement with. IL lets us bill $125 / hour /truck plus $35 / hr / firefighter responding. Sometimes it adds up.
01-03-2000, 10:00 AM #10Truck 2Firehouse.com Guest
I'll give you what I know on this subject, our city started charging for just about everything but fires! The problem is the money dosen't come back to the fire dept.it go's in the general fund. When this ideal was started it was a way of funding to hire more firefighters, but that went by the wayside real quick. We are a fully paided dept. funded by tax dollars. Several volunteer depts. around us are charging for services,(vehicle accidents) but under Pa. law it is illegal for volunteers to charge for their services since there non-profit organizations, but I don't think the state is inforcing the law. The local government body that they serve
can charge and pass that money onto the fire dept. and that is legal under Pa. law. We just had one boro here in Lancaster County that started a fire tax just before the first of the year. The tax payers in the boro will pay this tax but the people that the fire dept. serves outside the boro can't be taxed by the bore, their governing body would need to put their own tax on and give that money back to the fire dept. that serves their area.
01-05-2000, 01:05 AM #11pvfr fyrfyterFirehouse.com Guest
question1. does the private ambulance service charge differient rates for indistrict vs. outsiders. then does the company reimburse the city( read dept. funds) for equipment used ie:backboards, O2, cervical collars and the like.
question2. does your city have a willingness to do the work to submit these bills and handle the paperwork for you.
question3. have you contacted your own insurance company and found out what their policy is on paying these type of bills. also check or have other dept. members check with their ins. comp. to get a general idea of what is expected in terms of provided information. this may or may not help.
01-05-2000, 09:05 PM #12ChiefDogFirehouse.com Guest
Answer1: I do not know, but I doubt there is a different rate schedule. I believe the funding they get from the Town is base line of costs that will be met if they billing does not come through.
Answer2: Yes they will be. They are all set up with billing etc in the office due to the water and electric departments of the Village. I already told them that billing would add cost due to office work.
Answer3: I have not asked our own insurance but that makes sense to do it. Good Idea.
This is going to take a back burner for at least a week or so. ISO called and said they will be here 1/9 and 1/10 for our evaluation. They have not been here since 1981, that was brand new two engines and a tanker ago. I hope it helps but I know our record keeping will not be up to snuff.
Keep the ideas coming. I have to have this put together for 6/2000 implement or tell them why it won't work. In between my real job and family that is....
01-05-2000, 11:15 PM #13RVFDCaptFirehouse.com Guest
my department bills for motor vehicle accidents in which any type of rescue was incurred (helping EMS remove patient from vehicle or extrication)and for all structure fires. We have had a pretty good amount of success with this. However, we do not follow up with the billing. If the insurance company pays, fine...if not, we don't do anything. We have supplemented our budget by about $5000 and we only run about 300 calls per year.
01-06-2000, 01:21 AM #14pvfr fyrfyterFirehouse.com Guest
when you put a c-collar on does the private service return the used collar to you, do they replace it with new, or just say the heck with you find your own replacement.
Good Luck on the ISO. How do i get a copy of the ratings instrument to start working on developing a plan to change our rating. I don't think ISO has been to my dept. since the early 70s and our rating would probably go down if they did.
also have a friend in randolph center, dont have a map- how far away from him are you?
keep it safe and hope your rating improves.
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