Pasco residents will see their utility bills rise a little more than $2 next month as the city's ambulance utility fee goes from $3.60 to $5.85 on May 1.
The council approved a new rate structure for ambulance costs in a 6-1 vote Monday that also will reduce by more than half the amount of general fund money used to subsidize the ambulance service.
Councilman Tom Larsen voted no but offered no reasons for his dissent.
The city projected using $890,000 from the general fund for the ambulance service this year, compared to $420,000 last year, when the ambulance utility ended the year $121,000 in the red.
The new rate structure will drop the general fund contribution back to $420,000 by raising the monthly utility rate and the mileage rate charged for hospital transports from $9 to $10 per mile.
The ambulance utility fee last was raised in 2009, from $3 to $3.60. The mileage rate last was increased in 2004 from $6 to $9.
The city also bills $660 to residents and $990 to nonresidents for hospital transports.
Richland and Kennewick also have discussed raising ambulance rates in recent weeks to try to bring the three cities closer to a uniform rate,and because each of the cities is struggling with the effects of low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield told the council Monday that having to write off fees billed to Medicaid and Medicare that the government-run health services won't pay is the primary reason behind the rate increase.
"If we can't collect, we have to have a higher fee," he said.
Kennewick will have a public hearing on its ambulance fees June 5.
Richland gave preliminary approval to its rate structure April 3 and is expected to give final consideration to its ordinance tonight.
-- Also Tuesday, the council unanimously agreed to a temporary extension of its lease for Municipal Court space in the Franklin County courthouse.
The lease expires May 1, but the city needs an extension until new court space is built along with the Franklin County jail extension. The new space is expected to be ready in late 2013.
The temporary extension calls for the city to pay rent of $11.50 per square foot, or about $41,500 per year. Pasco currently pays no rent for the space.
The city also will pay $32,600 per year for security, custodial and utility costs, plus $28,000 toward operational expenses.
A week ago, council members balked at being asked to pay rent for the space, which the city has leased for 40 years and paid to improve when it moved in, but saw no other option but to extend the lease.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org