A re-examination of the overtime budget allowed the head of Richmond County’s Emergency Services department to provide what he claimed was better regional coverage at a lower cost to county taxpayers.
On March 14, the board of supervisors approved EMS Chief Greg Baker’s request to hire two full time employees without adding funds to the budget.
According to a written proposal submitted to supervisors by Baker on March 6, the EMS department shifted funds they would have used to pay for part-time employees to the full time line item.
Baker said that after running the numbers for the budget, he found that it was actually cheaper to hire fulltime employees and while also taking uniforms and overtime into account.
He mentioned that the full time status of the new positions would not increase taxes for county residents.
“We’re bringing in two full-time positions, but it’s actually at a less amount than what we were paying part-time people as far as expenditures and tax dollars,” said Baker, adding that the rescue squad would also be increasing its coverage and providing residents of Richmond County with new job opportunities.
He noted that the implementation of President Obama’s health care plan forced all localities to offer health insurance to employees who worked 29 or more hours per week, as opposed to the standard 40 hours.
Baker said that this was inconvenient due to the nature of EMS organizations, which oftentimes requires employees to work 48 to 56-hour weeks.
“That would really cramp us as far as the 29-hour mark,” said Baker, adding that most of his employees worked two 24-hour shifts each week.
“We’d be way over and we’d have to offer health insurance at the cost to citizens of the county,” he said.
In the request letter, Baker said the department would have been forced to hire 10 or more part time providers if they didn’t cut back on part time staff in favor of full time employees.
Baker was opposed to the former option due to the general undependability of part-timers.
“We’ve got some very, very loyal part-time people who have never missed a day when they were scheduled to work for us,” said Baker. “But on the average if you factor in all of the part-time employees, some of them miss as much as 50 percent of their work schedule for a month, which costs a lot in overtime dollars.”
He also pointed out that 90 percent of the rescue squad’s part time staff consisted of fulltime care providers from as far as the City of Hampton and Henrico County.
Baker said he considered opening a third full time position, but decided to monitor the next fiscal year with the two new hires to determine whether or not the additional position would be needed.
“We’re just trying to see how it’s going to go,” said Baker. “We don’t want to bring a bunch of people in and then say, ‘Oh, we brought too many people in and don’t need you. You lost the job.
“This is a money-saving thing to start with and we’re getting better protection and coverage out of it,” Baker added. “We just want to make sure it’s working as we think it’s going to work before we bring too many people.”