Santa Rosa considers medical emergency fee

March 9, 2009 6:26:41 PM PDT
Cities across the Bay Area are trying to deal with multi-million-dollar budget deficits. In the North Bay, Santa Rosa has already made drastic cuts and now the city council is trying to raise some revenue by charging residents and business a medical emergency fee.

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Engine 1 in Santa Rosa responds to 3,500 medical emergency calls a year. On Monday they assisted an older lady who slipped in the bathroom. The paramedic-fire engine crew also provides other life-saving services.

"It's the firefighters come in there do patient assessments, doing CPR, stopping the bleeding, treating for shock, it's those services," says Deputy Fire Chief Mark McCormick, with the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

But the department has been affected by this city's budget deficit of $23 million.

"The economy has had a significant impact in the Santa Rosa area and that's both property tax declines, sales tax and all of our property-related fees and charges," says Jeff Kolin, the Santa Rosa city manager.

That is revenue that goes to fund the fire department.

So the Santa Rosa fire department is asking residents and businesses to pay a monthly $3 to $4 dollar fee. Those opting out face a $350 service charge every time a paramedic team shows up at their door.

Given these hard economic times, the issue is sparking some debate in Santa Rosa.

"It just seems that it's another thing that they are adding on that our taxes cannot simply cover buy the outrageous spending in Sacramento and on the federal level," says Alex Palm, a Santa Rosa resident.

"Right now we probably need to pitch in a little more than what we are used to. A few dollars a month is better than giving the whole bill to the city," says Neil Kaufman, a Santa Rosa resident.

People would subscribe to the service on a voluntary basis. The fee is expected to generate $1.9 million a year.

Santa Rosa's City Council will vote on the matter Tuesday night.

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