Galway residents to vote on ambulance district

Public referendum likely Oct. 17 to determine if taxpayers will foot bill for EMS

Categories: News, Schenectady County

Editor’s note: This story was corrected at 10:57 a.m. on Aug. 15. An earlier version included an incorrect time for the Aug. 27 public hearing.

GALWAY — Residents could see an addition to their Saratoga County tax bills next year if the town decides to move forward with a proposed ambulance tax district. 

Galway Emergency Medical Services is hoping three towns — Galway, Charlton and Providence — approve ambulance tax districts. 

The town of Galway pays $80,000 annually to Galway EMS. 

If the ambulance tax district is approved, a resident with a home valued at $150,000 would pay approximately $44.46 per year, while a home valued at $200,000 would be on the hook for $59.28. 

The Galway Town Board hosted a public hearing Tuesday so residents could find out more and ask questions of the Galway EMS, which has been serving the town and surrounding communities for more than 50 years. 

The Town Board also passed a resolution after the public hearing for the proposed ambulance district and will set a date for a public referendum, which would likely be held Oct. 17. 

Galway EMS serves more than 6,000 residents and receives approximately 400 calls yearly. 

Brian Merchant, board member for Galway EMS, said additional funding is needed due to a reduction in volunteers and inadequate Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. 

“Medicaid only pays 20 percent of an ambulance bill and Medicare pays 49 percent of the bill,” he said. “Families today are two-family incomes, so there’s not much time to volunteer.

“In 2013 we had 15 volunteers, and we have six today.”

Merchant said Galway EMS has paramedics and EMTs on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to be on their way to a scene within three minutes. 

He added that Galway EMS is looking into increasing its billing rates and exploring additional funding opportunities to increase revenue. 

Lucy Boerenko was one of nearly 40 people who attended Tuesday’s public hearing. She said she wishes Galway EMS provided a financial statement to attendees. 

“It would be nice to see their income and expenses to show where their money is going,” she said. “Have they tried to fundraise or apply for grants?

“I’d like them to try and find the money before jumping on the taxpayers.”

Boerenko said she understands the necessity of having an ambulance service in the community.

“I’ve been fortunate, because I’ve never had to call 9-1-1, but if I did, I’d hope that they would respond in three to five minutes,” she said. “But there are a lot of taxes in this town and this starts a slippery slope.

“I don’t know how much more taxes the residents of this town can handle.”

Voters in Galway approved a new library in June 2017, which broke ground in June on East Street. A resident with a home valued at $200,000 will pay an additional $34 per year above the current library tax, which varies by township, in order to finance the 15-year bond. 

Pam Lombard said when she called Galway EMS when she was having a breathing issue, they responded within five minutes. 

“I was feeling better at Saratoga Hospital within 30 minutes,” she said. “It’s an investment in our community.”

Town Supervisor Michael Smith said former Supervisor Paul Lent, who died in June in an agricultural accident, spent a lot of time researching the proposed ambulance tax district. 

“It was his feeling that costs and time would be more to the community if Galway EMS went away, because ambulances would have to come from Amsterdam or Ballston Spa,” Smith said. “This service is vital and it’s as good as any other service we’re provided.”

The Galway Town Board is expected to provide more details on the public referendum at its next meeting, which will be held on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at 5910 Sacandaga Road in Galway. 

The town of Charlton is scheduled to host a public hearing on the proposed ambulance tax district on Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at 758 Charlton Road in Charlton. 

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