Bor­ough shoots down EMS tax

Pro­posed tax would have sup­ported Sec­ond Alarm­ers Res­cue Squad

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Rob Hey­man

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.

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