Malta Mulls Forming Special District to Fund Ambulance Service

Malta Mulls Forming Special District to Fund Ambulance Service

MALTA – The Town Board discussed forming a special district including the town and the Village of Round Lake to fund the ambulance service provided by Malta-Stillwater EMS during Monday’s board meeting.

Malta Mulls Forming Special District to Fund Ambulance Service

The Malta town board discusses establishing a special district with the Village of Round Lake to fund the town’s ambulance service./Photo by Ashley Onyon.

Town Attorney Thomas Peterson explained, “A special improvement district or improvement district is a vehicle that towns can use to establish a taxing district very often for a limited area. For example, if you need lighting in a particular neighborhood, a tax gets assessed to the people who have benefited thereby.”

According to Peterson the special district would be town-wide and would include the Village of Round Lake. For Round Lake to participate in the special district, the Village Board of Trustees would need to pass a resolution agreeing to join the special district, after which the measure would be decided by village residents in a public referendum.

For the town to begin the process of forming the special district, the Town Board must order a map, plan and report analyzing the cost. Peterson informed the board that it would not be necessary to create a map in this instance as the entire town would be included.

Peterson added that the board has some idea of the cost, as they have previously funded the ambulance service. The 2017 town budget includes a tax levy of $12,200 for ambulance services at a tax rate of $.007 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value.

If the board decides to move forward with the measure after receiving, filing and publishing the map, plan and report, the board would vote to establish the special district and set the tax rate.

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Following the board’s vote, there would be a 30-day period where residents could file a petition with the town clerk requiring that the establishment of the special district go to a public referendum.

If a petition seeking a public referendum is filed before the end of August, the measure would be placed on the ballot in November. If a petition is not filed during the 30-day period, the special district would be established without holding a referendum.

Councilman John Hartzell asked if it was possible for the board to vote to send the measure to a public referendum. Peterson answered that it was not possible.

“That is the case most of the time, you either have something that is subject to referendum or it is not, but boards do not have the discretion to put it up to public vote,” Peterson explained.

Town Supervisor Vincent DeLucia read a brief letter from the president of the Malta-Stillwater EMS formally requesting the creation of the special district to fund the ambulance services for the town.

DeLucia explained that the Malta-Stillwater EMS had considered the possibility of forming a combined municipal special district including Malta and Stillwater. Peterson, Hartzell and the supervisor for the Town of Stillwater researched the idea, concluding that it would be too complicated, if it was even allowed legally.

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As it was not possible to create a combined municipal special district, the Malta-Stillwater EMS requested that Malta and Stillwater each create their own special districts to fund the services.

“Obviously, we are the much larger user, being Malta, because of the population.,” DeLucia noted. “Also, we have the exits on the Northway and Route 9 where, unfortunately, many of the emergency calls are made.”

Town Councilman Timothy Dunn asked what the cost to complete the plan and report would be. Comptroller Kevin King suggested that the board put the map, plan and review out for a request for proposals given the need to have the cost analyzed.

“As you mentioned earlier, you have both the Malta portion and the Stillwater operating under one single agency in which there are total costs,” King said. “Are those costs being allocated to each town on a proportional basis that is fair and reasonable?”

The Town Board members agreed to explore the matter further, requesting that Peterson prepare a resolution for the next board meeting authorizing an RFP for the map, plan and review and setting a timeline for the process.

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Reporter Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She wrote for the Mohawk Valley Compass for two years covering the GASD Board of Education. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.

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