By STEVEN VIERA
SPOTSWOOD – The Borough Council continued discussions of a potential draft of a question to appear on the ballot in November regarding emergency medical services (EMS).
The question, as presented at a meeting on June 20, asked: Shall the mayor and council of the Borough of Spotswood be authorized to budget the required amount to fund a full-time career Spotswood Emergency Medical Services Department? The estimated 2017 budget amount of $1,281,243.02 would increase property taxes $275.04 on the average assessed home of $254,661.52,” and it also provided explanatory statements for both the “yes” and “no” categories.
According to Council President Curtis Stollen, the state will be presenting five questions of its own in November, so there is not much room for Spotswood to ask residents about EMS.
“We have to make it short, direct and still get the facts,” he said.
A “yes” vote would enable the council to develop Spotswood’s in-house EMS into a full-time department that will be complete with four full-time emergency medical technician (EMT) supervisors, eight full-time EMTs, one part-time director and additional part-time per diem employees as necessary. Borough Chief Financial Officer Joe Zanga estimated that this would cost $1,281,243.02, leading to an annual tax impact of $275.04 for residents.
The council’s proposal included a larger staff than the earlier plans it had presented, which the council explained was necessary because of the particular schedule required for a full-time department and because the staff sizes of earlier plans only allowed for one squad of EMTs to be deployed at any one time.
The two earlier proposals for in-house EMS, presented by the council at a previous meeting, both included a full-time director, six full-time EMTs and per diem employees. The first was a family coverage plan, which would cost a total of $519,242 with a tax impact to residents of $117.29, as well as a single coverage plan, which would cost $384,101 with a tax impact of $70.70 to residents.
A “no” vote would empower the Borough Council to investigate either shared service or contract agreements to provide Spotswood with EMS coverage. According to the explanatory statement, any outsourced arrangements “would be required to provide the same level of emergency medical services currently offered, at a greatly reduced cost.”
Residents who attended the meeting asked why the new proposal added so many new staff members from the previous estimate, as well as why the tax impact and costs of the new in-house EMS plan were so high, which the council said was necessary to provide sufficient coverage to Spotswood.
Several members of the public also criticized the phrasing of the question itself, pointing out that the line “at a greatly reduced cost” with little context in the explanatory statement for a “no” vote made voting no seem attractive.
The council will vote on a final draft of the question at its regular meeting in July.