EMS station spending gets a critical reaction
A town report to consider establishing a tax district for the Malta-stillwater EMS has caused critics of the proposed tax plan to question spending at the EMS station.
A few residents are seeking answers on the EMS’
annual banquet, a Las Vegas conference, a large fund balance and the use of credit cards for meals. The report inspired resident Woody Sloat to seek an investigation from the state Comptroller’s Office or the state Attorney General.
“I believe this report clearly supports the need for an independent inquiry by the New York State comptroller and or the Attorney General,” said Sloat, who called much of the report “sketchy.” “It is a limited report and was not prepared by independent, experienced audit personnel.”
The 28-page map, plan and report, which is dated Oct. 26, includes an audit conducted by town Comptroller Kevin King and offered a slew of best practice recommendations for Malta-stillwater EMS, including more internal controls on credit card use and creating purchasing and travel policies. Town board member Cynthia Young, who is heading up the effort to create an EMS tax district, emphasized however, that the report finds nothing “inappropriate.”
“To insinuate there is impropriety after a very extensive investigation that would warrant calling in state, no,” said Young. “Yes, there were little inconsistencies, but nothing glaring. We didn’t find anything terribly problematic.”
On Friday, Maltastillwater EMS officials including President Jean Tranka, Vice President Peter Klotz and Director Scott Skinner defended the agency’s spending and assured that the agency, with a $2.4 million annual budget, is work toward adopting town recommendations.
The banquet for example, at a cost $10,615, is a modest affair for 80 to 100 guests, they said, and a way to thank volunteers and swear-in new officers.
“It’s a team-building experience, some place where all of us get together,” Tranka said. “We are all one family. As such, we get together once a year to recognize that we are all in this together. It’s a thankless task. We do the research and are conscious of our spending.”
As for spending on meals, about $1,400, Tranka said there are times that the crew is called to transport patients to Syracuse, Westchester or Boston. During those times, they are allowed to purchase meals.
Tranka said the Las Vegas conference, costing $1,600, was for a member who returned with ideas on equipment and best practices “that he shared with us.”
The town, which funded the EMS out of its annual town budget at a cost of $484,000 in 2018, recommended the EMS agency to establish formal travel and meal policies. As for the fund balance, Tranka said that there are plans to divide the funds into designated spending pots including one for the 15-year-old building that needs new windows, which Allerdice will install for $24,650, and one for vehicles, including this year’s purchase of an ambulance at $250,000 and a fly car at $48,000.
Sloat said those items could be paid for from the $730,119 fund balance and the EMS station would still have money leftover. Mainly, he’s also doesn’t want a tax.
“I want to see cuts,” Sloat said. “I would like to see a minimum of a $100,000 reduction. I don’t think the EMS should continue to pile up money at our expense.”
Young said the tax rate, if established, now stands at 17 cents per $1,000 assessed value or 18 cents per $1,000 assessed value if Round Lake opts out of the tax district. The tax district would have to be approved by voters in a referendum, perhaps in 2019. Young said funding the EMS through a tax as opposed to a line item in the budget “is a more reliable funding source.”
Klotz, who sat on the town board, said he understands residents’ anxiety over a new tax, but pointed out that Malta is the only town in Saratoga County that doesn’t have one. He also said that he realizes updates in policies and bylaws are necessary.
“We are not a little store working out of a gas station operating on the back of an envelope,” Klotz said. “We are a multimillion dollar agency. We are asked to step up our game and are ready to do that.”
Malta-stillwater EMS officials defend spending cited in a recent audit. One resident wants an investigation.