CC Notes – April 21st 2014
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners was at full strength as all were present for the April meeting to conduct the business of the county. Before getting into the resolutions on the agenda, Donald Andrews, Director of Schools, asked to speak. He apologized to the Commission for his quote in a recent edition of the Crossville Chronicle where he stated that a tax increase was needed to fund the school system. The BOE budget is due to be presented to the Budget Committee on May 21st.
The first resolution of the evening was unanimous approval of the Official Statutory Bond for Clerk and Master, Sue Tollett. These bonds are required of the position and are similar to those required for other county officials. A resolution to appoint Joe Reynolds, Willie Hargis, Linda Baehr Caldwell, David Stout, and Carl Webb as members to the Cumberland County Board of Equalization for terms to expire April 30, 2016 passed in a 13 – 5 vote. The County Property Assessor, David Simcox, nominates these individuals and the County Commission is tasked with approving the nominations or rejecting them. Some members of the Commission felt that the group didn’t represent the county as a whole as most were from the 38555 zip code. After discussion of the locations, most felt that the various geographic areas of the county were represented. Voting against the resolution was Larry Allen, Mike Harvel, John Kinnunen, Carmin Lynch, and Brian Houston.
Several budget resolutions were passed including three for the General Purpose School Fund in the amounts of $700, $3,983, and $18,261.80. The $700 came from a donation made by Cumberland Artisans for Creative Expression and the $3,983 are grant funds from the Tennessee Arts Commission designated for field trip student ticket subsidies. The $18,261.80 resolution approved additional funds from donations designated for student supplies and clothing. A $107 budget amendment was approved accepting a donation from Sears for the Fire Department and a $750 donation was accepted for the library. All of these resolutions passed in unanimous votes.
A resolution in the amount of $134,506 was passed for the Sanitation Fund recycling center. The department was awarded grants that provide for enhanced waste oil collection as well as for additional recycling containers. This grant required matching funds in the amount of $17,775 that came from the Sanitation Fund’s unassigned fund balance. A resolution authorizing the submission of an application and acceptance for a Litter and Trash Collecting Grant for fiscal year 2014-2015 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation was approved as well. This grant has been received by the county for many years for trash pickup and other activities. Both of these resolutions passed unanimously with Commissioner Mike Harvel abstaining as he works for the department.
Rejected or denied, that is the question – and one that seemingly had no simple answer. A resolution to contract with AMB/MARS, the current third party billing company, for uncollected receipts for Emergency Medical Services was one that got overly complicated at a possibly record pace. You may recall that the county recently switched third party billing providers for the ambulance service. The new company has a system for electronically capturing billing information at the point of contact, and then electronically remitting payment requests. The Budget Committee had previously unanimously approved amending this contract with AMB/MARS to include a stack of approximately 400 bills from the old system that had been denied (or is it rejected) by the primary insurance provider.
These bills are time sensitive and need to be resubmitted in order to maximize the funds due to the county for services provided. According to the EMS Director, employees are spending a significant amount of time on these older bills which is causing a delay in processing new bills. A contract was negotiated to have these bills processed by AMB/MARS for 10.3 percent of the amount collected. It is a good deal that may help to prevent cash flow problems caused by an increasing back log of current billing. In the committee meeting that was held prior to the full meeting of the Commission, the Emergency Services Committee, after much debate, approved the resolution. The language of the resolution was changed to state that only those bills that had been denied by the primary insurance company would be included. A motion was made by Commissioner Hyder and seconded by Commissioner Harvel in the full Commission meeting to approve the contract amendment. I want to emphasize that AMB/MARS is not a collection agency. They are a billing company that processes claims and sends them on to the insurance companies for payment.
During discussion of the motion, several questions were asked concerning the bills that were to be given over to AMB/MARS for processing. Some wondered about the difference between the terms denied and rejected, or what would happen if bills were sent in that the insurance company had refused to pay. I believe it doesn’t really matter as AMB/MARS simply will not earn any fees if they don’t produce payment from the insurance companies. At any rate, after a lengthy discussion, a motion was made to defer the original motion until May. Voting in favor to defer was Brian Houston, Harry Sabine, Caroline Knight, Johnny Presley, Charles Seiber, Larry Allen, Sonya Rimmer, John Kinnunen, and Carmin Lynch. I voted against deferring along with Nancy Hyder, David Hassler, Joe Koester, Jan McNeil, Terry Carter, Mike Harvel, Roy Turner, and Jeff Brown. The result was a tie vote that was settled by the Mayor voting against deferring action. The main motion to approve was then voted on, with Commissioners Houston, Sabine, Knight, Presley, Allen, Rimmer, Kinnunen, and Lynch voting against. The result was a 10-8 vote in favor of having the bills processed and receiving payment in a timely manner by AMB/MARS. This will now free up the EMS staff to concentrate on processing new bills and should help to prevent any additional back log.
Property tax collections are strong at 99.1 percent of budget. This is trending above the previous year’s collection rate. Hotel/Motel tax collections continue to lag behind projections at 63 percent of budget for an actual total of $465,102. Ambulance collections are still only at 50.6 percent of the budgeted amount, but seem to be making somewhat of a comeback after billing issues were resolved. Prisoner Boarding collections continue to be strong with 68 percent of the budgeted amount collected. Actual year to date revenue is $712,361 against $1,046,856 budgeted. The portion of sales tax allocated to the General Purpose School Fund was down with $505,065 collected in March against a budgeted amount of $534,729. Year to date this leaves the collections down $13,430 when compared to the budgeted amount.
Thank you for allowing me to serve the 4th District and Cumberland County. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at any time.
Board of Commissioners
4th District Representative