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City council, Richmond Ambulance Authority at odds over funding

City council, Richmond Ambulance Authority at odds over funding
Posted at 10:55 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 04:37:06-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A stalemate for funding is underway between The Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) and the Richmond City Council as council members work to finalize the 2023 budget by the end of May.

The city council asked the leaders and board of the Richmond Ambulance Authority to meet with them for a budget work session Tuesday night.

Council members left the meeting needing more answers after more than two-and-a-half hours of back-and-forth budget conversations.

The neutral facilitator, Robert Bobb, was not able to give a recommendation at the end of the meeting.

“What I’m trying to figure out is how we walk out of this room with working together on behalf of the community,” Bobb said.

Richmond’s City Council is not ready to decide if they can shell out more money to RAA. They're asking for $7.5 million, $3.5 million more than what the city proposed.

Chip Decker, the CEO of the RAA, said he hopes council can find the rest.

The RAA can only can bill for service when they transport patients. They say one in every three calls results in no transporting, which means no funding.

RAA explained why the need is almost double the city proposal. “Increase in cost, increase in demand for properly trained personal, and a bit of less than optimal funding for a period of time,” said Decker.

He brought up the point that it wasn’t until 2019 that the request varied from the funding they actually request.

The city cited why they believe the requested budget is not justified, saying they need to understand what happened. The city said they are confused with an increase in ask when transports, response times, collections and personal expenditures are down.

"I think they are uncomfortable providing additional money until we have a better understanding where we’re going with it,” said a city member.

The city suggested bringing in an auditor.

“A third-party review is to help us get to the place whether or not we are bringing in the revenues and providing the services,” said Lincoln Saunders the City of Richmond Chief Administrative Officer.

A neutral facilitator of the meeting asked the RAA what would happen if they didn’t receive the requested funding.

Decker said they would have to make cuts to next year's budget, adjust services and tactical equipment and they would have a decline in staff because they wouldn’t have competitive wages to retain people.

The city responded by saying that’s not what they want.

“We are not at a place where we have to change the expectations of the community. We are at a place to better understand collections and other drivers,” said Saunders.

City Council gave the neutral party until Friday to come up with recommendations on how to move forward.

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