EMS sta­tion spend­ing gets a crit­i­cal re­ac­tion

Albany Times Union - - CAPITAL REGION - By Wendy Lib­er­a­tore

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.

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