The main takeaway from last Thursday's Gonzales Emergency Services District (ESD) meeting to Gonzales County EMS: fish or cut bait.
A request had been submitted by Gonzales County EMS to the ESD to continue funding advances on their monthly contracts. Apparently, ESD had been floating EMS along for some time, and ESD commissioners were tired of EMS being unable to stand on their own feet and manage the operation profitably and lawfully.
“Us as a board need a strategy [from EMS]” said ESD Treasurer Donald Rihn. “We can't keep advancing money. [EMS] needs a plan so that they can keep up. The budget hasn't been run right. We need to know if the [EMS] board has a plan so that we can move forward.”
Rihn addressed several EMS board members in attendance, stating that it was the EMS' job to make money in order to fix equipment and pay their bills. While EDS receives taxpayer funds to help operate an EMS, it was only intended to be a portion of their operating funds, he said.
“We just can't keep doing it,” Rihn said. “The EMS board has to take steps now.”
He explained that ESD collects 94 percent of their revenue in the months after October, and they are now running on reserves and will probably be about $130,000 short on where they were last year financially.
ESD Vice President Terry Morgan said that the EMS is going to start having to do proper business, and that they cannot continue to keep borrowing from the ESD and they must present a plan to move forward. The commissioners agreed to stick to their words and they denied the funding advance as requested by EMS.
The next item on the agenda was an agreement for ESD to pay for the EMS audits for the previous three years due to “recent investigations and developments.”
“We are not going to pay for that,” Rihn said. “We can't be in the hole when we do our budget.”
A motion was made to rescind the agreement to pay for the audits. It passed unanimously.
Next up was an opportunity for comment from the commissioners. All three in attendance spoke, and they were none too pleased with the direction that the EMS had wandered.
Morgan said that this was the first time that he has been on the board that he had received a financial report that looked credible. He wondered how a budget had ever been created without having credible financial statements to begin with. He said that an audit needs to be performed by EMS prior to beginning a new budgeting process, for it is the job of the ESD to take care of taxpayer dollars and to make certain that it is spent wisely.
Rihn was next, and he reiterated that ESD was never meant to be a majority supplier of funds to the EMS. When voters approved a services district, it was for “limited services” with a solvent EMS required to pick up the rest of the tab. The EMS board had not taken charge since January when the current investigations ramped up, he said, and he demanded that ESD be provided with accurate numbers by July 19 so that they can start on their annual budget — and to set the tax rate.
ESD Secretary Rene de la Garza was last to speak. He was more encouraging to the EMS board, urging them to look at their bylaws and to be more transparent with their employees.
“This EMS has gone bad,” he said, and that if this was a school rating, EMS would receive a grade of “F.” The employees are suffering and the board members needed to look within to try and fix the situation.
“We don't have a lot of time,” he concluded.
The next scheduled meeting of the ESD is July 19 at 4 p.m. at the Gonzales County Courthouse commissioners courtroom.