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Proposed Rotterdam town budget would eliminate paramedic service

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
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— Town Supervisor Harry Buffardi’s budget proposal would keep the property tax increase within the state-imposed tax cap, but eliminate the town’s paramedic service in the process.

Buffardi said his 2014 budget ends the three-decade-old town-funded service at a savings of roughly $600,000. The town would then contract all of its emergency medical services with Mohawk Ambulance, a private company based in Schenectady that would fill the need at no cost to taxpayers.

Buffardi said the move to a private service is both practical and timely. He said the savings realized through using Mohawk will help dull the brunt of more than $850,000 in costs the town could soon face when a dozen members of the Rotterdam Police Department who are at or beyond retirement age decide to leave the force.

“That money will be set aside and prepare to pay those expenditures,” he said.

The move would eliminate three full-time and 14 part-time paramedics — civilian workers paid through the Rotterdam Police Department’s budget. Contracting with Mohawk would also have a pronounced impact on Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc., the nonprofit ambulance company that now serves the town. REMS does not have paramedics, so it could provide only basic life support services without town paramedics on the scene. Mohawk employs paramedics, so it can provide full advanced life support services on its own.

Buffardi said Mohawk has agreed to hire all three full-time town paramedics.

“It’s the right thing to do at the right time, and it’s realistic,” he said Monday of the proposed cut.

Buffardi will introduce his budget during the Town Board meeting at 7 this evening in Town Hall. A public hearing on the budget is expected to be scheduled for sometime in early October.

Though he didn’t provide exact figures, Buffardi said budget will fall within the tax cap parameters. That means any tax increase wouldn’t exceed 1.66 percent.

In other changes contained in the budget, Buffardi is proposing an annual $50 fee for yard waste pickup. He said the charge is needed to offset some of the estimated $1.1 million annual cost of hauling leaves and other yard debris away from homes, which is currently free of charge.

“This would offset some of that cost,” he said. “If they wish to use it, they can; if they don’t, they can opt out.”

Buffardi’s budget would eliminate a $20 drop-off fee residents now pay at the town’s transfer station on Princetown Road. He said those residents willing to haul their own leaves and yard waste to the town facility shouldn’t be charged.

In addition, Buffardi is proposing to raise the $25 annual water fee to $75 in each of the town’s five water districts. He said the increase is aimed at building reserves that will help the town drill a new, much-needed well at its water plant and set money aside for critical infrastructure upgrades.

Buffardi acknowledged some of his proposals won’t be popular with residents, but he offered them to keep the town on solid financial footing into the future.

“It’s time for belt tightening, and certainly this is a way to provide it with the least impact on the town,” he said.

 
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