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Murrieta Enacts Paramedic Fee with Second Council Vote

The EMS fee is $48 per year per household—or $4 a month. Those who choose not to subscribe to the fee will be billed $350 per occurrence.

Five months after it was first proposed, Murrieta City Council approved a fee Tuesday for residents who receive emergency medical treatment from the

The Emergency Medical Response Fee and Subscription Program was up for its second reading Tuesday before it could officially be enacted.

Councilman Randon Lane opposed the fee during both votes.

"I would restate to my colleagues that this is something that should be left to the voters to decide if they would want to pay...it is incumbent of us to abide by the voters," Lane said.

The EMS fee is $48 per year per household—or $4 a month. Those who choose not to subscribe to the fee will be billed $350 per occurrence. Businesses would be charged on a sliding scale based on the number of employees.

Fees could be set to be deducted monthly as automatic bank account withdrawals.

For the first year of the program, a special exception would apply to those were not subscribed: they would be charged half-price, or $175, if they received emergency medical treatment.

Half-price subscription options would also be offered to low-income residents and those who receive government-funded medical coverage.

Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert along with city staff proposed the subscription program in order to recoup the cost of having paramedics aboard city fire engines.

The cost was not figured in to property tax assessments paid by residents because the Department did not have paramedics when the taxes were set. The the city is limited in its ability to increase the taxes because of propositions passed by state voters in 1978 and 1996.

"Our mistake was our timing; we should have done this 10-12 years ago," Shobert said.

The Fire Department's 2012-2013 fiscal year operating budget of $11.41 million showed $10.23 million in revenue and the use of $1.17 million in economic contingency funds. Of revenue, $8.37 million was expected from taxes and $1.52 million from assessments.

A $700,000 budget gap was predicted. Cost-cutting measures considered included closing a fire station.

The EMS fee is expected to supplement the Fire Department budget by $350,000 to $400,000 a year.

"We expect $500,000 in revenue for the year. We expect a 10 percent service charge [to administer the program] and we also recognize that you are going to have some folks who don't pay," said City Manager Rick Dudley. "So basically we reduced it by $100,000 to allow for proper projections."

Four residents spoke in favor of the fee, while three voiced their opinion against it.

"The city has seen fit to approve a tax which you call a fee without voter approval," said resident Linda Weinke. "You are our representatives; shame on you for passing a tax without our approval."

City Attorney Jeffery Morris said under the California Constitution, the fee is not what is considered a tax.

"A tax is a property assessment on every parcel in the city," Morris said. "A fee is a special charge for a user."

Dudley said it boiled down to a "fee for services," such as recreation fees and building and planning fees.

"Those are in addition because they are uniquely benefitting, and the other residents shouldn't be charged for those services," Dudley said.

Resident Barbara Nugent said she would gladly pay it.

"I think the chief and the staff have done all they can...and chief I would like to be the first one to give you that $48," Nugent said.

Faye Wons, also a Murrieta resident, agreed.

"This is really very nominal...$48 is not a lot of money. So I would have to give up my Pepsis for a month," Wons said.

Council passed the ordinance with a 3-1 vote, with Councilwoman Kelly Bennett not in attendance. With the second passage, the subscription program and fee could take effect in as soon as 30 days, (See a full PDF of the ordinance attached to this article.)

"This is about looking for a solution to solve a problem," said Mayor Doug McAllister. "...It is a legitimate tool of government to solve real problems. It is not a loophole."

Jackson August 10, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Really, Julie? You are going to let a $48/year, ($4/month) determine whether you live or die? Lame. If FD shows up to you first, you are unresponsive, can't breathe, seizing OR a victim of a crime, you will turn them away? For $4 a month? Wow. You are just straight stupid.
Jackson August 10, 2012 at 03:26 PM
WCL, so your car never breaks down? Did you ever think that maybe the huge pumper was coming from a fire, they get a medical aid, do you think they are going to go change out their truck? Oh and just send out the medics? Really? Remember that next time FD is there w/ the Jaws of life 10 minutes before AMR (speaking from experience) when you are involved in a traffic accident on MHS/Whitewood or Hancock/Cal Oaks or Kalmia/Juniper or close to any of the FD's. You people are naive! If $4/month really bothers you that much, GET A JOB!
Harvey Mushman August 10, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Most calls for service are Med Aids and not actual fires. Why are we staffing a station which is adjacent to Cal Fire on the West side of town. With all of the retired fire fighters that have chosen to retire in Murrieta we certainly could build a Paid Call / or volunteer FD. I look at this as a Tax but the FD is taking advantage of a good thing.
Gary Bonanno August 10, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Mr. Mushman, you are staffing a station adjacent to Cal Fire because Cal Fire's 1st responsibility is to California Department of Forestry/County response. Murrieta Fire Department's primary responsibility are to the citizens of the City of Murrieta. Wouldn't you like to be sure that, if Cal Fire is out responding to a brush fire on county lands that MFD will respond to put the fire out? Again, this is NOT a tax. This is a USER FEE. If you don't use it, you don't pay it. Or you can pay for the subscription and if you use it once in a year, you just saved yourself $300. Or, you can do what you say and eliminate the Murrieta Fire Department and then pay higher homeowners insurance. Having a fire station and fire hydrant and other fire service "extras" makes you a better risk and lowers your homeowners insurance. Or, if you have HEALTH insurance, you can not pay the subscription and if you have to be taken to the hospital via ambulance, your health insurance will probably pay for it. This is a perfectly rational solution to providing quality emergency medical services to the residents of Murrieta. Take a deep breath and see if it works before you get all spun up over it. The last thing that you should be recommending is to REDUCE your city's fire protection.
Kevin Clark August 12, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Gary, did you get a chance to look at the Ca. web site that lists the cities employee salaries in 2010? You failed to address what I and many others consider to be the real issue. Is 155,000 a year take home pay, with full health and vacation benefits paid by the city plus 3 times thier salary taken out of this years budget to cover thier future 100% health and 90% salary for the rest of thier lives for one employee an abuse of our tax dollars? I believe it is. The chiefs own retirement salary "pension" will be approximately 146,259.00a year for the rest of his life, not counting full health benefits. Not bad. This is real money and it is taken from a very real source and that from my wallet through TAXES. And contrary to your insurance analogy we already pay for the services provided. Is one of the council members a retired fire dept employee? The Chiefs article in the in the Californiain was pathetic. He alleges mis information as the issue. He is the one providing no information he provides only nebulous, non definable peramiters,this in my opinion is to keep his fellow union members in his good graces. What would happen if they did then other cities would follow siut. What he is really saying is that I won't live within my means. This current pay and retirement is not financially sustainable. Maybe the chief would rather see Murrieta follow San Bernardino and a host of other cities filing for bankrupcy to escape union abuse in salaries and pensions.
Gary Bonanno August 12, 2012 at 02:41 AM
@Kevin, do you know what the disability rate among firefighters is? Do you know WHY they can collect those kinds of annual salaries? Because they work so much overtime because most cities are running UNDER optimal manning. Have you humped hose in a burning building? Have you had to run into a building that was on fire as everybody else was running out? I did once. I tried to become a firefighter, not because it was such a sweet job, but because I wanted to be able to help people when they really needed it. Exactly, your taxes are paying for people to use Emergency Medical Services for things that are NOT emergencies. Things that people with health insurance can pay for. I don't begrudge a police officer or a firefighter a single dime in retirement, because IF they get to survive to their retirement, they did it after monstrous overtime, understaffing, needing to maintain physical fitness in order to do their job well and at a HUGE mental cost. Pick a dead child up at an accident scene and tell me that it doesn't affect you. Murrieta has identified a method to reduce costs and you people are complaining about it? Gary Stein might just stand a chance!
Ryan August 12, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I'm curious how these salaries stack up to cities of comparable size in terms of population and fire staff?
Gary Bonanno August 12, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Depends on what state that you are talking about. Again, base pay for most firefighter recruits is fairly low. Not knowing the service lengths for Murrieta FD, you may have some fairly senior firefighters and engineers that are high on the pay scale. Again, don't know. The salary is significantly impacted by overtime. If you have a fully or close to fully staffed fire department, there's not much overtime. If there is a hiring freeze, etc. attrition starts to play a factor and your department becomes smaller. If your city is expanding and they are trying to staff additional locations or during fire season, overtime again becomes difficult to manage. Even in a fully staffed department, if an engine rolls out close to quitting time and the firefighters are engaged in a difficult call/fire, they can't just look at their watches and say, Sorry, quitting time. Our reliefs should be here in 10 minutes or so. Good luck. I understand that times are tough, but this is not where you need to be looking at cutting costs. Any city planner will tell you that it's DEATH to the city's "livability" rating to cut police, fire or life services.
Kevin Clark August 13, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Gary for person not a fire department employee ,past or present, you appear to have all the answers to staffing and running a fire station?. I respect your input and know there are more ways to look at an issue other than mine. However your analysis goes to vague terminology; faily low, high on the pay scale, significantly impacted, fully staffed, these are all nice sounding terms, however they are without a definition, amount or quantity. And I'm sorry, if the fire dept /or their unions are the one providing the definitions, I'm afraid I just don't trust them to be objective. How can one ever determine if something is a waste of money if the one who's receiving it determines how any task should be completed? Your above descibed condition "sorry quitting time" is the only time the word "overtime" should be implemented in this occupation. Sleeping, grocery shopping, eating, surfing the internet, being "at ready" is not work, work is work. So the bottom line is you believe no amount of money is enough, thats ok, I just don't agree. However If you watched 60 minutes last night you would see that Stockton Ca. filed bankrupcy for this exact reason. Oh p.s. the Stien jab was a nice touch, I'll have to meet him and decide.
Gary Bonanno August 13, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Mr. Clark, where would you like me to begin? I don't have to have been a fire officer to understand how a department runs. Sure, it would give me much more credibility and I would have given my eye teeth to have made the cut as a firefighter, but unfortunately, in California, it is a VERY competitive field. The terminology is not vague, but if you want the number, YOU do the research. It's not MY city. What quantity, what amount what NUMBER do you put on a human life? Would you rather have three engines instead of four engines respond to YOUR home? Would you rather have a ten minute response time or less than seven minutes when it's a member of YOUR family laying on the floor, with a fish bone or a rubber ball stuck in their throat? So, "Sorry quitting time" is the only time that overtime should be implemented, How about when a wife is giving birth or a daughter is graduating high school? How about when the firefighter is so contagious that even the dog is staying away from him? Is that who you want responding to a medical emergency to your 75 year old mother with pneumonia? So, if he doesn't make it to work for the day and your department is already running short handed, should the engine just run short? Sure, three people on a call is okay. Unless it's a fire. A fire with injuries. One being the captain, one being the engineer and one being the hose dragger. Except the hose dragger might be the paramedic. Your child or your house, what decision?
Gary Bonanno August 13, 2012 at 09:28 PM
You're not paying for them to fight fires, you're paying for them to be ready to fight fires. Do you pay auto insurance to have accidents or be there when you DO have an accident? I don't think that no amount of money is enough, but I also STRONGLY (in case you couldn't tell) that police and fire and life services is NOT the place to make cuts. I apologize if you feel that the Stein jab was directed specifically at you. That was NOT my intention at all. I don't live in Murrieta, but we, as residents of California need to work together to avoid situations like the City of Stockton for OUR cities. We ARE all in this together, not Repubs or Dems or Murrietites or Paso Roblegians (I think). It's our state! Let's do what we need to do to save it!
Bobby Sims August 23, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Bottom line is when the Fire department and EMS show up in a life saving emergency no one is going to care about $48 that is petty. I think it is a great way to continue services and not reduce man power or quality of care.
William Johnson August 23, 2012 at 11:49 PM
AMR provides free standby services, and only charges is a user uses their services. Free stand by paramedic service 24/7/365. Just like going to the dentist, the, ER, etc... there is no cost unless you use the service. That is a great deal. Making people pay for what their tax dollars already should pay for is absurd. Nobody should have to pay twice when their tax dollars already are paying into the budget for the FD. Let AMR respond alone at no charge, then if they need more hands, call the FD. That would save on a lot of responses, fuel, manpower, etc... and lower the cost and spending needs of the fire departments. Most of the time, paramedics on the ambulance and the patient don't need anyone else there... so there is no reason for the FD to respond to most of the calls. A person with a sprained ankle, the flu, a headache, and a minor car crash don't need a fire engine, they likely only need an ambulance and its crew. If the call type warrants more resources, then by all means send them, but a person who has been sick for 4 days and now calls 911 doesn't need the cavalry...
The Republican August 24, 2012 at 01:25 AM
The Fee/Tax is for redundant service. It is absurd. It was just a way to pay for additional union firefighter jobs that are not needed. The council is beholden to the firefighters union for their past and future election support. This is just a money grab disguised as a false need. It is in the top four of campaign issues.
Gary Bonanno August 24, 2012 at 04:21 AM
@William Johnson, first of all AMR doesn't respond free. 2nd of all, since there are WAY more fire engines than there are ambulances, the FD responds in order to provide you with Basic Lifesaving capabilities (and sometimes Advanced Lifesaving; I'm not sure how many MFD units run with defibrillators) as quickly as possible; A fire engine can usually be at the scene much quicker than an ambulance. When a call comes in, many times it is misrepresented. A person who has been sick for four days has no business calling 911; That is another purpose behind the charge. To eliminate using AMR as routine transportation to the hospital. Rather than calling a $350 ambulance, you can call a $30 cab. AMR is not supposed to be used for routine medical transportation. @The Republican, you are confused behind what this is really all about; This is a way that the USER pays for the service, rather than all of the taxpayers. And then the money from the taxpayers can go to things such as new equipment, improved equipment, additional firefighters to improve the fire service of your city.
The Republican August 24, 2012 at 05:05 AM
THIS IS WHAT IS BEHIND THE FEE SCAM: The USER already paid their taxes for the SERVICE. This fee was a council set up and scam. The council started taking money from fire a few years back for administration costs...something never done in city history........ to FILL A GENERAL FUND HOLE..........and now this fee/tax is being used to scam taxpayers to fill the FIRE BUDGET HOLE the council created to begin with. WHAT A FARCE AND SCAM THIS FEE/TAX IS.
Gary Bonanno August 24, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Ummm, Repub, the user only paid their taxes for the service if they are a homeowner. So, what you are saying is that HOMEOWNERS should have to pay for your medical transportation. And please don't yell, There's no reason to yell in a discussion. Again, you want to keep calling it a tax and you are mistaken. If you don't want to pay the $48 a year fee, then don't. But when the ambulance shows up at your door, don't be surprised when you get a $350 bill.
Gary Bonanno August 24, 2012 at 05:51 AM
As a matter of fact, yes, other agencies enacted the same fee/"tax" YEARS (see I can emphasize too, when you emphasize through a whole post, it's yelling) ago. When you are transported by Ramona, they charged a $600 fee in 2003. Not sure if it's gone up. You submit it to your insurance company and they usually pay for it. Mine did. Most jurisdictions charge a fee for Emergency Medical transport services. And like I said, it discourages routine medical transportation in an emergency medical vehicle. That's why they make personal vehicles and cabs. So, yeah, no stealth tax here. Just good old fashioned good financial stewardship. But you won't see it that way.
Gary Bonanno August 24, 2012 at 06:06 AM
And there is a coward that goes by a fake profile because he doesn't want people to know who he really is. I'm not even going to discuss it with you anymore because you're an ignorant ass and when you can't win an argument, you fall into the "ridicule it and it will be ignored" mode. Doesn't matter if it's Ramona, or Timbuktu. Charging for Emergency Medical Services IS good financial stewardship. You are taking the burden off the homeowning taxpayers and placing it squarely on the users (or their insurance companies, which they also pay for). You're just too obtuse to see the common sense in it. Or you're too much of a Socialist that thinks that everybody should pay for YOUR medical care, rather than you paying for it when you use it. Either way, Ciao fratello!
The Republican August 24, 2012 at 06:06 AM
Ramona? WRONG COUNTY GARY. You think taking money from the fire budget to cover a general fund shortfall after it never took place the first 16 years the city existed is GOOD FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP? You think passing a fee/tax to replace money taken by the council is fair application of a fee/tax? Damn one thing is for sure Gary.... there is a retarded person whose first name starts with a G that lives in Murrieta.
The Republican August 24, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Gary please most people on here know who I am> My name is Roy and I dont hide behind fake profiles at all. I use them to make a point that blogs are pretty fake overall. Hell Gary for all I know this could be your wife or sister posting with your name.By the way I pay for my own health insurance and am the complete opposite of a Socialist and believe in honest budgets and taxation versus this council manipulation that is basically an accounting scam being used to raise money.for a redundant service.
Denise Rossi August 24, 2012 at 06:20 AM
can you please remember that the word retarded is not an acceptable form of ridicule. As a society we are trying to evolve into civil human beings. Attempting to insult someone by referring to a real handicap is unacceptable. If instead of saying there is a retarded person blah, blah I said there is a cancer ridden person blah, blah you would clearly see how inappropriate it is. Call this person what you want - but don't use a legitimate disability to label someone you wish to degrade.
Gary Bonanno August 24, 2012 at 06:27 AM
It's NOT redundant. AMR is being paid out of the fire budget. You think that AMR is just providing services out of the goodness of their heart? It is being paid out of the fire budget. So, people who expect to use the service or can't get it covered by health insurance, pay 48 bucks a year and that reimburses the city for the services that are being provided. Or, you DON'T pay the 48 bucks and when the ambulance shows up, you pay $350 for the service. And that reimburses the city. The reimbursement comes at the user level, not the homeowner level. Just like if your alarm service continues to send erroneous fire or burglar alarms to the city dispatcher, you may be required to reimburse the city for the police or fire services that are dispatched for no reason. There are some locales (mostly Southern states) where you pay an annual fee for fire service. If you don't pay, if the fire department shows up, they may stand there and watch a structure burn if it's not a dwelling or human life is not in danger. Even if they do fight the fire, you will receive a bill. It's just transferring the cost of providing services to the user, rather than every taxpayer. You may see it as filling a gap; The gap is there because they need to raise funds in the city. Would you rather them NOT fill the gap and just not provide the service of fire prevention/fighting?
The Republican August 24, 2012 at 06:30 AM
Sorry missy but dont preach political correct speech here. I could care less. Definition of retarded or retard: 1.to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede. 2. to be delayed. 3. a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance, as in a machine. 4.Slang: Disparaging .a mentally retarded person. a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: a hopeless social retard. 5.Automotive, Machinery . an adjustment made in the setting of the distributor of an internal-combustion engine so that the spark for ignition in each cylinder is generated later in the cycle. I DO THINK MANY OF THESE DEFINITIONS FIT GARY QUITE WELL. Take your civil argument to the Democraps convention.
Gary Bonanno August 24, 2012 at 06:33 AM
See, Roy, you're just an abusive p^ick. You can't discuss with a dumbass and I've wasted all the time on your ass clownery that I need to; You are a drain on society by stealing the oxygen that we all breathe. And I'm sure you're just a keyboard toughy, like most of the other cyberbullies around. Dumbass.
Denise Rossi August 24, 2012 at 06:38 AM
I can cut and paste too Republican't, - still doesn't make your ramblings correct. By the way - I am not a Democrat - in any way shape or form - I am a true RepubliCAN - unfortunately we mistakenly sit back and let the can'ts speak for the cans way to often. As for answering any more of your ramblings - I am done - I said my piece and will graciously bow out of your little world of ignorance.
The Republican August 24, 2012 at 06:43 AM
The point Gary is this: It is redundant because AMR is already paid for the service by contract while the same service by the city is an OPTION. Second the funding shortfall was created by council action a few years ago and now the council comes to the table to enact a fee to replace a fire budget hole they created. If this were honest budgeting the council would have enacted a tax a few years ago to cover the general fund shortfall instead of raiding the fire budget. Instead the council raids the fire budget then creates a shortfall in the fire budget and uses a fee to cover their manipulation of funds that caused the shortfall in the first place. The fee is nothing but a scheme to scam Murrietans into paying a fee to cover a fund shift that should have used a tax years ago to cover. I know you are too retarded to get the redundancy of this post. Take an anti retard pill and try again in the morning.
The Republican August 24, 2012 at 06:48 AM
Gary my name is Roy Holmgren and I would say nothing here that I would not say to your face. So if you at some point wish to discover whether or not your above post is true come talk to me in person and find out. I go to chamber functions in Temecula and other various social gatherings in Murrieta. You are too funny.
prop218 September 24, 2012 at 05:16 AM
A fee is a tax if it only is applied to property owners...They stated that visitors would not be subject to this fee...only citizens or business owners. That amounts to fee that is only applied if you own or reside within the city so it is a tax. This will get overturned by the courts and in the end cost the city far more in legal fees then they will take in . Read California Prop 218 and you will see that this exact type of fee is considered illegal without voter approval. The city attorney should be fired for wasting our money by not understanding prop 218.
prop218 September 24, 2012 at 05:26 AM
We need to vote on it!!! Let's let the citizens that have to pay this decide. I guess we should also charge each person in Murrieta a road fee...since you all drive on the streets...and a fee for the air you breath...and fee for using the internet...and fee for enforcing state law....that way when the city attorney cost the tax payers, and yes I said tax payers...not fee payers we will all have a great time!

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