The 22 communities that receive ambulance service from Parry Sound District Emergency Medical Services are getting an unexpected combined $450,000 bill this year.
Dave Thompson, the director of emergency and protective services, says the increase is the result of extra costs created by COVID-19 as the EMS tries to keep its employees safe.
In a letter to member municipalities Thompson says the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented challenges and has created significant cost overruns for things such as PPEs (personal protective equipment), increased sick time and additional overtime resulting from staff sick time.
To meet the cost overruns an additional levy of $450,000 needs to be imposed for the 2020 calendar year, Thompson says. Otherwise, EMS could face a significant staff decrease.
The municipal share of the EMS budget is $14.1 million. And the additional $450,000 that EMS is levying represents a nearly four per cent hike.
The community facing the largest levy increase is Seguin, which is being asked to pay an additional $112,926, followed by Archipelago Township at $67,911 and Carling at $33,250.
Callander and Nipissing Township face increases of $17,794 and $12,240.
For Powassan the additional levy amounts to $10,788 on top of $338,801 it already paid this year.
But Coun. Dave Britton believes not paying the supplemental levy is not an option.
"This is a service we need every day," he said at this week's council meeting. "I don't want to see that service reduced.
"We shouldn't restrict their efforts to get through 2020 and I can live with the increase."
Coun. Randy Hall noted that Powassan, like other Ontario communities, received additional money this year from the province to offset COVID-related costs.
"These are frontline workers who come into our community and we need to keep them safe," said Mayor Peter McIsaac, speaking in favour of paying the supplemental levy.
McIsaac noted Powassan received $179,000 in additional provincial funding, but warned that police and Eastholme Home for the Aged also will soon make similar requests "because they've also taken additional steps to protect their people."
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget