SARATOGA COUNTY — Over the past year, a growing number Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Ambulance Corps in the county have been struggling due to finances. A common solution for the EMS’ financial woes is creating an ambulance tax district for funding.
Most recently the Town of Malta has begun the research to assess whether or not a tax district should be created. Right now Malta Ambulance Corps is funded through municipal funding.
However, Vincent DeLucia, Supervisor for the Town of Malta, says creating a tax district will not happen this year but sometime in the future. DeLucia noted that the town board did decide that if the idea of a tax district were to go forward, it would be up to the citizens of Malta in a public referendum. Having an EMS tax district would also allow more room in the municipal fund to fulfill other needs of the town.
Causes for these strained financial conditions have to do with providing uncompensated care, high deductibles and the addition of Advance Life Support (ALS), which allows trained technicians to administer invasive treatments. During the 2018 General Election, the Town of Charlton’s ballot had a referendum so citizens could choose whether or not the EMS would have its own tax district. The referendum read, “That a Special Ambulance District be established in the town of Charlton according to Town Board Resolution No. 154, approved on Sept. 10 2018, authorizing a town-wide vote as to whether or not to establish the Town of Charlton Ambulance District as described in said resolution. If approved, the District will be funded by a town- wide tax levy set annually by the Charlton Town Board.”
Citizens voted in favor of the creation of the tax district 1,084 to 873. The town of Charlton uses three different Emergency services; Galway, Ballston Lake and Community, which responds to roughly 40 households according to Councilman David Robbins.
Robbins believes that EMS and Fire Departments are leaning more towards the professionals because the shift requirements are more demanding than volunteers. Charlton’s emergency district also provides ALS to patients.
“The tax district really doesn’t change anything in terms of any service. It’s just a mechanism for the town to collect the money that they have to pay out of their budget to the emergency companies. So the benefit of having it as a tax district is that it’s a dedicated incoming funds and it’s guaranteed. It doesn’t get cut down the road; there wouldn’t be any haggling over what amount they get. It’s just a way to guarantee that amount of funding comes in,” Robbins said.
The three EMS companies will submit their budget every year and the town will have to approve it. For 2019, the three companies requested to collect a total of $78,000. Residents will pay 23 cents per $1,000 property assessment value so a household valued at $200,000 will pay $46 a year.
On Oct. 17, the town of Galway voted in favor of creating an ambulance tax district as well as to fund Galway EMS. The referendum was approved with 424 voting yes and 118 voting no. According to Margaret DeFoe, Town Clerk of Galway, residents will be prorated based on their property assessment. Yearly, a one family residence valued at $300,000 that would be assessed at $159,000 for the parcel would pay $88.91.