County: Early alarms sound off

By all accounts, Chautauqua County’s fly car system has been a winner in all areas but one — its budget.

County legislators learned recently revenues in the program are significantly less than budgeted. Even with lower expenses than budgeted, the program ran at a $255,000 deficit in 2017.

Some of the problems can be cleared up with time. Medical billing is notoriously slow, so some of the revenue due to the fly car program will be coming, but it may take longer than anticipated. The problem comes when the fly cars respond to calls that don’t have an attached revenue stream, such as when insurance can’t be billed.

The first-year budget for the fly car system was a shot in the dark. Other than the salaries for employees, it is difficult to be exact in creating a program budget from scratch. County legislators will have more than a year’s worth of data on the fly car program’s expenses and revenue streams when legislators begin discussing the 2019 budget later this fall.

By then, they should have a plan to make sure that the service has a workable budget each year. The county and its taxpayers cannot afford another money-draining program like the one the Chautauqua County Home became. So let’s hope county officials learn from the first year of the fly car system and make the appropriate adjustments so it at least breaks even. If it can’t, then legislators must make clear they will make the difficult decision to end the program.

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