Kennewick residents and businesses will pay $1 more per month for ambulance services on their monthly utility bills next year.
The city council approved raising the monthly ambulance utility fee by $1 next year and another $1 in 2016 in a 5-1 vote.
That brings the fee to $6.67 for 2015 and $7.67 for 2016.
City staff had suggested hiking the monthly ambulance utility fee by 50 cents next year and another 50 cents in 2016.
However, some city councilmen were concerned that would still leave too much of a gap between the cost of providing emergency medical services and revenue for the utility. The increase was then changed to $1 per year.
Recouping the full cost of emergency medical services would mean charging $9.64 per month. The new fee remains less than what Pasco and Richland currently charge.
The city eliminated its general fund transfer to the ambulance utility in 2012. Dan Legard, the city’s finance manager, said the general fund has still been subsidizing the ambulance utility because of how the city’s paramedic staff was allocated.
Councilman John Trumbo voted against the change. Mayor pro tem Don Britain was absent.
The change is expected to cut the use of general fund revenue to pay for emergency medical services by up to $1.8 million for the next two years, according to city documents.
A recent cost of service study determined that 77 percent of all service calls are for ambulances, according to city documents.
The change will free up revenue to help the city implement a fire prevention program, Legard said. The program will provide business inspections.
The revenue from a higher ambulance utility fee was included in the 2015-16 budget that the city council unanimously approved Tuesday.
The two-year operating budget is about $96 million in both revenue and expenses, according to city documents. The city would maintain a fund balance of about $2.9 million. The budget also includes about $24.6 million in new capital projects.
The city council also unanimously approved raising planning and land use fees and civil permit fees. It’s been 20 to 30 years since those fees have been adjusted, Legard said.
Altogether, the city anticipates receiving about $120,000 more a year, which is enough to pay for one new planner position and to move a ¾ position in the engineering department to full time, Legard said.
That would help the city cut current site plan review times in half, Legard said. The city has committed to improving service and will phase in the fees in the next two years.