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  1. #1
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    Question Billing For Fire and Rescue Services.

    What are the pros, cons and legal issues for billing of services for fires and rescue runs in your jurisdictions for career, combination and volunteer departments in the city limits and outside the city limits?


  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by terminator224 View Post
    What are the pros, cons and legal issues for billing of services for fires and rescue runs in your jurisdictions for career, combination and volunteer departments in the city limits and outside the city limits?
    We had to pass a new city ordinance to allow billing for services. We just completed the process 6 months ago. The proposal alone made a huge firestorm of protest in our area. We limited our billing proposal to items that we felt we could justify. We don't run medical calls, so that wasn't the issue.

    We are limiting our billings to the following issues:
    1. Hazmat Calls (Federal and State Law supports this)
    2. Extrication
    3. Technical Rescue
    4. Certain Wildland Fire Calls (mostly Federal Land, where we bill the Feds)

    The Wildland Billing has been ongoing for years. It was the Hazmat and extrication that was new. We spent 3 years planning, training and getting the equipment together to start performing extrication. Prior to our department taking on this role, the local ambulance service did all extrication. The reason this became an issue was no one realized the ambulance service charged for extrications. So when we said we were going to start doing extrications for the ambulance district and published our fee schedule, people got upset.

    So my answer is education, education, education. Make sure you are proactive about what costs you are recovering, why you need to recover the costs and what the legal justification is. If you get everything out front and open, people may still b***h, but they can't complain you are trying to do something sneaky.

  3. #3
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    Default Billing

    Who is actually going to sit down and down the billing? FD employee (uniformed or civilian)?
    or are you going to let city do it as a service?
    or are you going to contract it out and surrender a % as a fee?

    what oversight proceedures will be put into place to ensure you get waht you are entitled to and there are no shennagins?

    what happens to income? who gets it - city coffers, FD, etc?
    is income treated as just that - does it means tax filings every year?

    who will stay current on rules, statues and regulations - not to mention forms, on line billing procesess, internet access (not phone - you are going to need cable) , insurance company contact information, etc.?

    and that's is you are a paid dept - if you are vol dept - how much more time will this require from someone who will not get paid? and how long do you think that will last?

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    I appreciate the response; Several good issues were brought up that we need to consider.
    I'm thinking that the easiest way to handle this: the chief reports the runs, have an outside source handle the billing for a percentage, get information for insurance from our reports or police reports on all MVA's. I'm unsure about the legal issues as to who gets the money (city fire fund or city general fund) and tax filings (need to check with our law director).

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    Check your state laws to see if you're even able to collect. From what we've gathered, Pennsylvania doesn't have a law that says the insurance has to pay the fire//rescue bills. We've used outside firms, but had next to 0 returns.

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    Our volunteer department has been billing for fire service in the townships for years, even decades with no major issues. Recently within the last couple of years new legislation also permits us to charge a users fee to city residents. We bill for fire, extrication and haz-mat incidents. We use these funds to purchase additional equipment such as thermal cameras, extrication equipment and out of the ordinary items that do not normally fall within your annual budget requests. We have had no major problems with this process oher than the need to create good relationships with the insurance companies that normally handle payment for services. A little paperwork is a small price to pay for additional funding that can provide additional resources for our members. Without this source of income we would need to increase our budget requests. We feel it is a better system to have those individuals who actually use the service to pay the additonal costs generated by active responses. It is everyones responsibility to help pay for the fire department to be ready and available, but any cost generated by actual use should be passed at least in part onto the users. Many times what we charge does not cover the entire cost generated by an incident response, but it may help pay for fuel, foam or other consumable resources used at a particualr incident. As you all are aware many times fire departments have repeat customers that seem to be always having some kind of an incident. There is no reason to pass costs generated by these sometimes careless individuals onto other residents who never require the fire department to respond.

  7. #7
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    We bill for our services... it's called taxes.

    People pay for us once by paying sales tax (and, in my city, something that is called a community service fee that helps offset police & fire expenses). Why on earth should we make them pay for us a second time when they actually need us?

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    The pooled tax $ pays to have FD and equipment available and ready. An individual who actually uses the service/equipment pays for his use.

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    We're still a membership based department (hopefully for only another couple months) and we bill frequently. State law allows us to bill on nonmember fires and outlines how much we may bill. We are also allowed to bill for haz-mat incidents (spiller pays laws).

    A few years ago, we worked with some local insurance agencies and such and we've started billing on member and in-town fires. We found most insurance policies have a writer that has about $500 (that's the average around here at least) for "fire suppression fees." We bill at a rate discounted from the nonmember fires and what the insurance pays is payment in full (even if it's nothing). We put it into a capital improvement fund, which has helped out a lot.

  10. #10
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cozmosis View Post
    We bill for our services... it's called taxes.

    People pay for us once by paying sales tax (and, in my city, something that is called a community service fee that helps offset police & fire expenses). Why on earth should we make them pay for us a second time when they actually need us?
    I agree.

    However, I see nothing wrong with billing people who do not live in the area from which you collect taxes. If someone from the next town gets in a crash while driving through your town, they should get a bill if your FD responds.

    Why should they get the same service for free that your people pay taxes for?
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    Default Taxes

    I have heard the argument about ...taxes are paid to support the fire department, they shouldn't be billing... Why is it that the department must be 100% tax based? Why not run some partial funding from each, say 80% tax funded and 20% from incident billing, or whatever percentages are deemed appropriate? My opinion is that department funding should be somewhat diverse, some local property taxes, some incident billing, some fundraising, some donations, and for those that have significant exposure to recreational and tourism activities there should be some source of income derived from those folks as well. Or you could simply run 100% of the funding from local taxes, but spreading that load out seems more fair to me, but again thats justs my opinion, which probably isn't worth much. I guess all efforts to find other avenues of funding could be stopped and all needed funds could be derived from taxes (which would require an increase in taxes paid by everyone). These other avenue of funding are not additional money for departments, they are a way to get the same total budget, but from several sources.

    Does your city or town have a community center or building that is available for rent for wedding receptions etc? Do they charge you to use it? Don't you already pay city taxes? Following some of the above mentioned logic you should get use of the community center for free.

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    I appreciate the feedback that I am getting.

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    If this is something you are looking to do, you need an ordinance or resolution by your governing body (city council, county board or town board, whatever)
    The legal people should double check it so you are not making money on charging either. If you are, you are not able to collect taxes for the same services. There are some state and federal rules that govern what a "municipal" department can and can't do. Depending on what your department is, municipal, cooperative, district, incorporated, etc.

    We have an ordinance. We basically only charge for something if it is an arson fire, like a punitive type of thing. Hazmat as well.
    Jason Knecht
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    we bill if the railroad starts a grass fire bill for man power and fuel. other than that unless its a industrial fire we dont bill for anything within our district or if we go to our mutual aide districts

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    Quote Originally Posted by neiowa View Post
    The pooled tax $ pays to have FD and equipment available and ready. An individual who actually uses the service/equipment pays for his use.
    I agree with NEIOWA. A comparison used around here is referring the fire department to the water department. Tax dollars pay for the personell to run the department and the water mains to deliver it to your house, but bills to the taxpayers pay for actual water usage.

    I agree that not every call is billable and our department realizes that. However, there are many calls that are and most insurace companies do pay. It is actually built into most policies.

    One of our most recent calls was an overturned tractor/trailer full of cattle. We were called because there was no one else available to get the cattle out and the department was there from midnight until the early morning hours. This was definately a billable call and we billed and the insurance company paid - no questions asked. We bill by truck and man hours so this turned out to be a pretty hefty bill. Regardless, looking at what the insurance company might have paid if all the cattle had died, our bill was nothing.

  16. #16
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    Default billing

    We started billing Ems runs a couple of years ago now ems completely pays for its self new ambulance every four years all the new toys and the tax payers donít flip the bill as a hole only the people using the service pay. To do this we went back and read all the fire contracts we have none state we will provide ems just fire so taxpayers are not being hit twice. Now the state of Ohio has made some changes in its laws and you can now bill for mvaís we bill but only to non-residents.

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    MembersZone Subscriber SIGNAL99COM's Avatar
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    I agree with being able to do 3rd party billing for those who utilize your services which are not citizens of your district (i.e - auto accidents), but those who are already pay by paying their yearly taxes (i.e - fire tax).

    Charging them again would be like me paying rubbish removal taxes, and then every time the trash truck comes to my house, I get charged again!
    Chris Shields
    Lieutenant / EMT
    Haz-Mat Technician
    East Syracuse Fire Dept
    Onondaga County, NY

  18. #18
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    Thanks for the information.

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