The City Council on June 27 wrote off more than $700,000 in unpaid ambulance bills dating back more than 20 years. In a separate vote, they wrote off a little more than $100,000 in general assistance reimbursement not paid by the state as the result of a dispute over the city's administration of the program.

The problem of unpaid ambulance bills comes to the table as the council is finalizing its 2017-18 budget. But the write-off won't come out of the upcoming budget, according to City Manager Joe Slocum, who said the city already has the money set aside.

Slocum said the city's auditor determined last year that the ambulance bills were uncollectible and moved $393,254 from surplus into a restricted reserve account that now totals $736,951. The auditor recommended using this money to clear the books this year, Slocum said. Councilors obliged.

In a separate vote, the council finalized a write-off of $103,612.74 in general assistance reimbursements. The expense is the result of a legal dispute between the city and the state Department of Health and Human Services last year over the city's administration of the program.

DHHS froze reimbursements to the city in 2016 after the city's GA expenses jumped nine-fold in a single year.

Officially, the city was flagged for not keeping detailed records and paying for services not covered by the emergency safety net program. City officials, who were caught off guard by the freeze, believed the sharp increase in spending was a larger factor.

The dispute also highlighted the gap between the city's attempts to accommodate aid seekers and the state's efforts to limit social services to the neediest cases.

The dispute was settled out of court with the city accepting a little more than half of what it otherwise would have received.

Slocum said the $103,613 is only for fiscal year 2015-16, meaning there may be additional unrecoverable GA payments from August and September 2016, the two months between the end of the fiscal year and when the state cut off reimbursements to the city.