ELIZABETHTON — The Carter County Commission’s Budget Committee began the public portion of budgeting for the 2022-23 fiscal year Tuesday evening with the annual session for outside agencies and other groups unaffiliated with the government of the county to apply for funding.
The committee heard from most outside agencies during the evening, but some of the biggest beneficiaries will present their demands at future meetings.
The largest increase requested this year was for an additional $448,874 from the Carter County Emergency and Rescue Team. Director Terry Arnold told the committee that “the biggest problem I have is personnel issues”. He said all of the requested increase will go to employee salaries.
“We’re losing too many employees,” Arnold said. Many of the employees who have chosen to leave recently work in much higher paying emergency medical positions in Johnson City or Sullivan County. Arnold warned the committee that “we are understaffed. The county will be at risk if more employees are lost in surrounding areas.
To prevent further loss of personnel and to rebuild the staff, Arnold presented a four-year plan which included significant increases in employee salaries. He said the increases could come from county contributions or better returns from Medicare and Medicaid.
Arnold said this year the rescue team had costs of $7,768,100 for ambulance patients. He said the ambulance service should immediately write off $3,057,688 of those charges because of the limits Medicare and Medicaid would pay.
Arnold said he also uses a collection agency for patients who refuse to pay their bill. He said the results of the collection had been disappointing, with just $24,000 donated to the rescue team.
The total amount the agency is requesting for the emergency medical services side of operations this year is $601,574. The amount requested for the rescue squad section will remain the same as last year at $170.00.
In other applications heard on Wednesday:
• The Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership is seeking to reverse the $40,000 annual payment Carter County made to the agency. This year, the county contributed only $15,000 to NETREP.
• Kids Like Us is asking for a $15,000 increase for its program to provide a fun and appropriate learning environment for people with learning disabilities. The year the county donated $5,000. Kids Like Us is asking for $20,000 next year.
• The Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library is requesting an increase of $13,789. That would bring the county’s annual contribution from $75,000 this year to $88,789 next year.
• Isaiah House, an organization that provides care for children awaiting foster care, is asking the county for a $2,500 increase next year, raising the county’s total contribution from $5,000 to $7,500 $.
• An agency that has not received county funding in the past, East Tennessee Spay and Neuter, is seeking a contribution of $2,500.
• The Butler Volunteer Fire Department is asking the county for a $2,000 increase from $3,000 to $5,000.
• The American Red Cross is asking for an increase of $1,500 next year, from $2,500 this year to $4,000 next year.