MALTA — The Town Board is inching along on a plan to form an ambulance district in Malta. The district would pave the way for the town to fund ambulance services through a tax on town residents.
“This is the beginning phase of just studying this, to see how the service does its billing, the fund balance that they have left, how many people are paid, salaries and so forth,” said Town Supervisor Vincent Delucia.
The board has an idea of the potential costs as the 2017 town budget included a tax levy of $12,200 for ambulance services at a tax rate of $.007 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value. The 2018 budget estimates costs of $2.5 million for combined fire and ambulance services, with 25 percent allocated toward the latter. With median home prices estimated at around $258,000, the median tax hike from developing the ambulance district would be around $50 per year, according to members of the board.
“The ambulance service has asked us for a couple years to form their own district because they’re tired of coming to the town board year after year on bent knee and hat in hand,” the supervisor said.
A vote on the plan has yet to be approved as the board continues to research and discuss the details of establishing the district. If town wants to go forward with the district, it would need to be approved by the public directly. “Should we make that decision, it will go up for public referendum,” Delucia said. “We believe in a democracy and that’s how it’s going to operate. We’re not going to just impose something on the public.”
Creating an ambulance district would free up the current $500,000 for medical services in the budget for allocation toward other services, notably public salaries, which Councilperson Timothy Dunn said is much needed.
“We’ve had a lot of staff who are leaving, not just to the private sector, but to other towns. It costs us more in the long run because we’re constantly training people,” he said.
Dunn added that the tax hike was small but reiterated that the public would have the last say on approving an ambulance district. “That’s less than a cup of coffee a day, but ultimately it’s up to the average person in Malta to decide what they want to do,” he said.
In other Town Board news, the board discussed appointing new members to the Open Space, Agricultural & Trails Committee. Approval would appoint as many as three new members to the board. The vote was tabled after disagreements between council members, with Councilperson Cynthia Young being the most prominent voice in favor of the expansion.