By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Carter County ambulance board president John Brooks said, while they aren’t quite there yet, he has hopes the service can someday operate with a comfortable buffer in each of their accounts.
They’ve recently taken one more step in that direction, with an end in sight to IRS debt reaching back to before 2015.
The service had been so far behind on unpaid payroll taxes, in fact, and the records in such poor shape, that they still aren’t completely sure how much they owed or how much they have paid to the IRS to date.
Board president John Brooks, who joined the board in 2016 and has helped unravel the financial mess he said the board inherited, explained the service had been paying double payments when paying their recurring payroll taxes, as well as additional payments over the past several years.
“We kept thinking we were caught up, then they’d find more,” Brooks said.
Executive Director Rick Loperfido said they’ve paid “at least $500,000” in additional payments since he took over the director’s role.
But, they can now see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Finance director Valerie Nolan told the board on Monday that she recently submitted a letter to the IRS asking for forgiveness of some of the penalties accrued over the course of their debt. The IRS agreed to forgive $45,000 in late fees and penalties, leaving the ambulance service with $79,000 still due. The IRS also agreed to allow the ambulance service to pay that final amount in payments, with no penalties for doing so. Once the final payment is submitted the IRS will release the lien they have held against the ambulance service’s properties.
Nolan said she believed they approved both the requested abatement and the payment plan because of the ambulance board’s commitment to working on the financial problems until “everything is now in order.”
In other finance related old business Loperfido and Nolan reported that Schooley Mitchell had been able to secure the ambulance service a refund of more than $600 from taxes charged by Windstream that the service should have been exempt from paying. This was after calculating Schooley Mitchell’s fee of $200 for the service. They said the company will continue to look at other services and vendors who may have charged the ambulance taxes or other fees that the service should legally be exempt from paying.
In other action Loperfido reported on necessary repairs to trucks since the last meeting, and reported on the receipt of the new stretchers and chest compression units. The new heart monitors, he reported, should still be delivered some time in midsummer.
He also reported on recertifying licensing with the state KBEMS (Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services) for seven vehicles.
He also reported on his work submitting a grant application to FEMA requesting $165,000 for the purchase of a new wheeled coach type III ambulance. He said while securing pricing on the vehicle for the grant he also priced the cost of remounting one or two of their existing ambulance bodies onto a new chassis and engine.
Loperfido also reported on training and continuing education opportunities that have been scheduled, as well as future options for training.
In her financial report Nolan noted that income for January was $281,805.32 – which came to $16,500.32 more than they budgeted for the month and $14,059.04 more than the same month in 2022. She attributed some of the increase to enhanced Medicaid payments. The year to date (YTD) income is $197,634.52 more than budgeted.
While expenses for the month were also up – $63,517.71 more than budgeted for the month and $149,709.13 for the year – with the increases in income the service still has a positive net income of $41,925.39 YTD.
Payroll was also significantly over budget for January, Nolan said, but that was expected. January, she said, was when they paid out on unused PTO. While PTO is typically used or cashed out yearly, during the pandemic more of the staff chose to bank unused PTO hours instead of using them or cashing them out at the time – just in case they got sick. Now, with some of those hours no longer able to roll over, the service has to pay out on them. That put payroll at $45,869.15 over budget for the month, but $41,925.80 of that came from the once yearly PTO payout. The payroll overage for normal operations was only $3,943.35, which was down just over one percent from unscheduled overtime costs the previous month.
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