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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wausaukee Rescue Board Okays 2022 Levy Amounts

Issue Date: September 30, 2021

After long hard discussion at a special budget meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 28, the newly reorganized Wausaukee Rescue Squad, Inc. Board of Directors suggested numerous changes to be made before the 2022 budget is finalized, but agreed the municipalities will provide $405,000 toward the total budget.

This is a $65,459 reduction from the $469,459 the previous Squad management had sought from the municipalities for 2022, but up $40,000 from last year's contract, and is the amount needed to pay for 3-person response teams on the job 24/7.

Board members present for the meeting were Acting President Tom Arthur, Acting Vice President Kevin Kwasny, and municipal members Supervisor 1 Bob Jicha for the Town of Wausaukee; Village President Tracy for the Village of Wausaukee, on behalf of Town Chair Jeff Englemann; Mike Caylor for the Town of Wagner and Mark Wisinski for the Town of Amberg. Also on hand were Wagner Town Chair Steve Renikow, Sr.; Accountant Tammy Schlies; Ami Lee, who is newly employed as a secretary for the Squad, and Mari Beth Barbuch, who late in the meeting was approved as a Squad employee to work limited hours as an EMT and doing payroll, record keeping, scheduling and other office management chores. A Peshtigo Times reporter was also present.

Barbuch has been helping out at no charge as a consultant to the Wausaukee Squad. She moved to this area in April and works from home on payroll and scheduling for the Port Washington Rescue Squad, which she has been doing for 20 years. She said she will retire from that job in January. She said she will gladly fill in as an EMT at Wausaukee when needed in addition to doing office work, but wants to work only limited hours, "because I take this retirement thing very seriously."

Financial reports were distributed at the start of the meeting.

Arthur said the offices are now secured. He had to put all new locks on the building, at a total cost of $1,300, because the old locks could no longer be re-programmed. He said the office and records "were a mess," and they had been locked out of a lot of accounts, but things are being straightened out.

Schlies said all of the data on services provided by her accounting office is secure and all the bank accounts are secure. All the checks are kept at her office, and all the mail goes directly there as well,

Arthur said the Squad is running low on cash. They have a balance of approximately $22,000 to last until the next payments from the municipalities come in. Of this, $6,236.64 is in checking, $5,710.88 in savings, and $10,033 in a money market account that they cannot spend right now without paying a penalty.

"We've been screaming from our end that payroll was way too high," Schlies declared. She added it appeared that information was not passed along to the right people. When payroll is up, employer's share of Social Security increases, as does the cost of Workman's Compensation. Schlies said she had predicted the Squad would end the year $80,000 over budget, and now that projected shortfall has been cut to $60,000. Arthur said there has been "tons of overtime," a situation he feels is now corrected, and they are finding other places where costs can be cut. As one example, he said the Squad had been spending $285 per week for phone, TV and Internet and they and have cut that to $100 per week. He said with re-scheduling, Ami has cut overtime costs by about $6,000 a month.

Jicha said the quarterly payments from the towns are due in October, and the Town of Wausaukee can pay on Oct. 1, since it is pre-approved. He said it is hard to see this in a Squad that used to be self sustaining.

The only squad income listed on the tentative budget sheet was $134,541 from billing for ambulance fees. There are generally about 200 calls a year, but most are paid through Medicare/Medicaid, which limit payments to their allowed amount - $475 per call - no matter how much the call cost. Also, whenever they need to call for BAMC paramedic intercept, they are billed for that as well, and cost is usually about $200.

Arthur outlined a number of other ways they will be saving money in the future, and part of that includes hiring more part-time people with experience who are good to go on calls from the start, so they will further cut need for overtime. They need drivers and first responders right now more than they need additional EMTs, he said.

Tracy asked if the Board of Directors will be allowed to look at all the applicants, and Arthur assured him they will. "We want as many eyes on these people as possible," he said.

Another problem they are dealing with is finding there were "tons of expired medical stuff" on the rigs and they have been having to beg and borrow from other squads to bring their supplies up to date. "That will never be allowed to happen again," he vowed.

Tracy urged the squad to have an outside audit done every year. Arthur agreed, and added that any town that wants to send a clerk, treasurer or other person to look things over in the Squad office can do so. He said Schlies also will be happy to go over things with them, but asked that the requests be made through him.

Tracy repeated an outside audit would be good to restore the confidence of the public, and if that happens, maybe contributions will go up again as well. Schlies said donations actually are up from last year, and all donated money is accounted for through her office.

Kwasny commented the Squad has billed $254,000 for calls this year, and has only collected $75,000 so far. They agreed to look into other billing companies.

There was brief talk about replacing the older ambulance, and Wisinski urged them to have it looked over by experienced mechanics first. "I don't want to spend $200,000 on a new vehicle if it can be fixed for $10,000," he declared.

Arthur expressed hope that if they do things right next year there will be money left in the budget that they can save for eventual purchase of a new squad.

Before agreeing to set the municipal share at $405,000, to be divided on the same basis as last year, board members wondered if the Squad can make the budget work.

"If I run short at the end of the year it will be because I did what you guys told me to do, because you're running it now," Arthur told them.

Arthur noted the Squad can get some reimbursement from the state, somewhat like fire dues payments. To do so, each of the municipalities will need to fill out a form that he will have sent to them.

Caylor asked to have the budgets broken down more for the next meeting.

There was discussion on setting up contracts for the municipalities, and the board agreed they should engage an attorney or law firm to draw up new by-laws and handle other legal details, including contracts. Arthur suggested if that cannot be done in time for this year, the four entities that support the Squad should extend an offer to them.

Arthur also suggested they should have just one Board of Directors meeting a month, and everyone agreed. It will be held at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in order not to conflict with town and village board meetings. The next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The meetings will be open to the public, with notices given as they are for meetings of other public bodies.

There is to be a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Once the reorganization is complete there will not be "member" meetings because the "members" have all become employees. The employees can have meetings to discuss internal issues, training, etc.

There was general agreement with a suggestion from Tracy that they should get a tape recorder and start recording meetings for record-keeping purposes.

Kwasny suggested when looking at staffing they should consider the size of the area, because even with Squad members all at the building in Wausaukee and ready for immediate response, it will take at least 10 to 15 minutes to get to most calls in Amberg. Caylor noted the same is true for Wagner.


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