Borough shoots down EMS tax
Proposed tax would have supported Second Alarmers Rescue Squad
HATBORO >> A proposal that would have established an EMS tax to support the cash-strapped Second Alarmers Rescue Squad (SARS) failed to get official borough council support at its final meeting for 2018.
The proposal was included as an agenda item for council consideration on Dec. 17. The council was to consider a tax of 0.12 mills, which would have been levied against borough residents annually to help fund the rescue squad. Hatboro has no such dedicated tax currently.
SARS is a nonprofit EMS agency that provides coverage to seven municipalities in eastern Montgomery County, including Hatboro. It receives a vast majority of its funding through reimbursements of provided services, as well as from grants and donations.
When the tax proposal finally came up for consideration on the agenda at the meeting, it received no initial motion of support from anyone on council, effectively dooming its chances for the near term.
The recommendation for 0.12 mills was specifically recommended by SARS based on the number of the calls it responds to on average in Hatboro. Although patient calls are billable, SARS doesn’t always receive back the full amount that is billed out, even after insurance reimbursements to those patients.
According to SARS, the squad responded to 685 calls for service in Hatboro in 2017, leading to 426 patients being transported. The cost per billable call in Hatboro is $601.38, but the average revenue for each of those calls is $492.96 — a deficit of $108.42 for each call.
SARS saw a total deficit of $46,729 from Hatboro in 2017. The mills requested would have covered that deficit in Hatboro, assuming consistency in the number of billable calls year over year. A resident with a home assessed at the township average of $122,170 would have paid $14 on the tax in 2019.
The appearance of the EMS tax proposal was not entirely unexpected.
Over the summer, Ken David-
son, assistant chief of operations for SARS, suggested such a tax during a public presentation before the council. At that time, council pledged to consider the request but made no commitment to a potential tax and gave no indication of when one might be proposed
However, council President George Bollendorf and Davidson confirmed that in November, council reached out to residents through social media, including the borough’s website, to gauge their feelings on an EMS tax. Bollendorf said based on the responses he received, support for the tax was almost nonexistent.
“I did receive a lot of emails about the millage rate, and all but one were against it,” Bollendorf said at the Dec. 17 meeting.
Council member Nicole Benjamin said a majority of the responses she received personally were also against the tax.
“I don’t believe the burden should be placed on the taxpayer for failure of people to reimburse,” she said, explaining her personal views on the tax.
Members of the council also felt that given the borough’s budget challenges in 2018, now was not the time to impose another tax on residents. The approved budget for 2019 calls for a 4.4 percent increase in the municipal tax rate for residents, which translates to an additional $79 for a resident with an averaged-assessed home.
Davidson was in the audience to hear the council’s vote on Dec. 17.
He said after the meeting that he was “disappointed” by the borough council’s decision not to act on the proposal and had been hopeful for the tax’s prospects going into the meeting.
“We certainly understand that the borough looked at it carefully and had a lot to consider,” he said. “We’re disappointed we couldn’t get anything worked out this year. I’m hopeful that there’s an opportunity to revisit it next year.
“We feel that it’s critical we continue to work with the municipalities until we can hopefully get them to establish the support that we need,” Davidson added.