HUNTINGTON COMMUNITY FIRST AID SQUAD’S RESPONSE TO TOWN OF HUNTNGTON BUDGET BY PRESIDENT JOHN PALMIERI
The Huntington Community Ambulance District (HCAD) was established by voter referendum in 1984 to provide the balance of funding for the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, Inc. (HCFAS) which had been established in 1967. The boundaries of the ambulance district were based on the Huntington and Huntington Manor Fire Districts.
Since its beginnings, HCFAS emergency response has been staffed 100% by volunteers without a single paid person for 49 years. There has never been a charge to any person in need and even now, the ability to pay is not a consideration for our help.
In 2015, the approximately 20,000 taxable parcels in the ambulance district paid, on average, less than $100 each per year. This $100 provided emergency ambulance service in the District at no charge to anyone in 2015. In 2016, the Town of Huntington reduced the contract fee paid by the HCAD to HCFAS by $280,000 or 15% from 2015. And still, there was no charge to any person. For 2017, the Town has again reduced the amount that HCAD pays to HCFAS by 87%; from $1,585,003 to $200,000. The reasoning that the Town has given is that insurance billing will make up the difference and that cash reserves in HCFAS accounts can be used to augment the financial needs of the district.
The Squad provided the Town with a spend-down plan to use money in an escrow account to pay the final year of its bond on its building. So a reduction in the contract fee from $1,585,000 to $1,000,000 was not unexpected. But the Town’s continued insistence on the Squad using money collected over the years, through fund drives and donations for the benevolence of its members, is misguided. That money has been saved and increased through investments to purchase member insurance, member longevity awards, and yearly member celebrations. The Town of Huntington asked the New York State Attorney General, in early 2016, to investigate the financial dealings of HCFAS and reported to the Town, orally, that there were no improprieties.
The Huntington Community First Aid Squad is made up of volunteers from the Huntington Community Ambulance District and because we all have a stake in our community and want to help our neighbors, we take pride in keeping costs down and providing top quality emergency health care. This September, HCFAS began hiring Paramedics to assist our volunteers in reducing our response times and providing a superior level of medical expertise on every call. These paid providers will cost HCFAS about $250,000 per year. These costs were put into our 2017 budget request and they were cut as well. Our spend-down plan will save the district 37% in 2017. Billing will cost every person that utilizes an ambulance in 2017, far in excess of the $75 to $100 that their district tax would have cost for 2017. The HCAD tax was in reality, a very cheap insurance policy for emergency medical service. HCFAS will still provide the very best emergency medical service to the people of Huntington, but now it will not be free.
John Palmieri – President HCFAS