The Milwaukee County Board Monday — on a veto-proof vote of 15-4 — approved a budget amendment that would restore $1.5 million to the county’s Emergency Medical Services subsidy.

The amendment was presented by the board’s Finance Committee in response to County Executive Chris Abele’s plan to eliminate the entire $3 million that the 19 county municipalities would have received in 2012 for EMS personnel and training.

However, there are conditions on the money:

  • The current EMS contract between the county and the municipalities is voided;
  • Funds will be distributed according to percentages determined by the County Board and not the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council or local fire chiefs; and
  • Municipalities must work toward creating cooperative efforts (similar to the North Shore Fire Department, which serves  Bayside, Brown Deer, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, or the agreement between the City of Milwaukee, West Milwaukee, St. Francis and Cudahy).

If the municipalities don’t agree to the conditions, the board will withhold the subsidy.

Supervisors Mark Borkowski, Willie Johnson, Joe Sanfelippo and James “Luigi” Schmitt voted against the measure.

Those backing the amendment said since the funds were county dollars, the board, not the ICC — a coalition of county municipal governments — or fire chiefs should decide how the funds are distributed. Supervisors also said the issue of consolidation must be studied closely.

Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, who represents West Milwaukee and the near south and southeast sides of Milwaukee, was the most vocal in her support of the new distribution formula.

“Who made the formula? The ICC. Who is Milwaukee’s representative on the ICC? Who represents the diversity of this county?” she asked. “Do we want our diverse body to do this or them? Did they add to their budgets or increase fees to cover this cost? No.”

Supervisor John Weishan, who represents West Allis and portions of Greenfield and Milwaukee, said it is hard to argue that Franklin needs a subsidy when you look at that community’s median income and property values and compare them to Milwaukee.

But Sanfelippo said the suburbs shouldn’t be punished because they are aren’t diverse enough. He said it was best to rely the input of the fire chiefs and mayors because they are the experts in what the emergency needs are for their cities.

An amendment offered by Supervisor Patricia Jursik was similar to the one that passed, but it did not end the current contract or change the subsidy distribution formula. It failed on a 12-7 vote.

Borkowski offered two amendments, both of which would have restored the full $3 million to the EMS program. One would have increased the county’s property tax levy by the full amount, with Borkowski saying people are willing to pay for EMS with tax dollars. That measure failed on a 10-9 vote, after Jursik switched her “aye” to a “nay.”

Borkowski’s second measure would have lessened the levy increase to $2 million, with the remaining $1 million taken from the fund to move the county’s mental health services from institutional to community-based.  That measure also failed on a 15-4 vote.

Under the new distribution plan, the EMS subsidy would be allocated as follows:

  • City of Milwaukee: $725,000
  • North Shore Fire Department: $150,000
  • South Milwaukee: $125,000
  • Oak Creek: $100,000
  • Franklin: $100,000
  • Greenfield: $100,000
  • West Allis: $100,000
  • Wauwatosa: $100,000

The amendment came at the County Board on Monday took up Abele’s 2012 budget.

Abele has said that he will veto any budget items that increase the 2012 property tax levy over the $269 million levy set for 2011.

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