CHARLTON — The Town Board passed a resolution to fund ambulance services through an ambulance tax district at its Monday meeting.
Town Supervisor Alan Grattidge said the town must wait 30 days to determine if a referendum — a public vote — is required.
He said the town sought to create the new tax because it couldn’t fulfill each ambulance corps’ budget request: $27,227 for Galway EMS and $35,530 for Ballston Lake EMS. The town currently pays $25,000 to Galway EMS and $30,000 to Ballston Lake EMS.
The proposed tax rate per thousand for the ambulance district is 25 cents.
For example, the typical one-family home in Charlton worth $250,000 would pay about $62.50 per year for the proposed ambulance tax district.
Before the Town Board meeting more than 25 residents attended a public hearing regarding the ambulance tax district.
Jean Somers said while she supports the ambulance tax, she would like the fee structure to change.
“I’m glad the town will do this for the ambulance service,” she said of providing increased funding. “I know how important it is and it’s an equal service for everyone, so residents should pay the same flat fee.
“When you base it on property values, everyone doesn’t pay the same cost.”
Jay Wilkinson said since it’s a vital service, creating an ambulance tax district is “the right thing to do.”
“The board should hold a referendum and let the people speak,” he said. “Also, since ambulance service is a line item on the town’s general budget, what will happen with that money?
“I’d like to know what will happen with that — we need more transparency as we move forward.”
Councilman Joe Grasso said over his five years on Town Board, cuts have been made to other line items in order to fund ambulance services, so funds would be restored to the previously cut items.
Eric Utermark said he doesn’t support the proposed ambulance tax district because he said the town doesn’t need added taxes.
“They should cut their budget and make due with what they’ve got,” he said of Galway EMS and Ballston Lake EMS. “I have to operate on a budget and so should they.
“I can’t ask taxpayers for help if I can’t meet my budget.”
Councilman Dave Robbins said that last spring when Galway EMS submitted its annual request for funding they asked for “a significant increase.”
“The increase was primarily due to personnel,” Robbins said. “In the past they relied on volunteers, but it’s becoming more difficult to find volunteers to fill those roles.”
The Town Board met with Galway EMS and Ballston Lake EMS, which both obtain funding through reimbursements from individuals and insurance companies, as well as fundraising and town contracts, to look over their annual budgets.
“It was clear that there’s a need for increased funding,” Robbins said. “Using another ambulance service or starting a town ambulance service is not an option.”
He said 75 of Galway EMS’ 400 calls were from Charlton, which are not significant enough for the town to launch its own ambulance service.
Robbins said the Town Board came to the conclusion that the best way to meet the increased funding needs of the ambulance services would be to create an ambulance tax district.
“It ensures that you’ll have this service,” he said to attendees on Monday. “None of us are happy about [adding] a new line on your tax bills, but for now, we think this is the best option.”
The Galway Town Board, which passed a resolution earlier this month for the proposed ambulance district, will set a date for a public vote, which would likely be held Oct. 17.
Grattidge said ambulance service budgets would be reviewed annually prior to approval.
The Charlton Town Board is scheduled to meet on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at 758 Charlton Road.
The Galway Town Board is expected to provide more details on the referendum at its next meeting, which will be held on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at 5910 Sacandaga Road.