MILLSTONE – Officials in Millstone Township will implement a municipally funded emergency medical services (EMS) operation through a shared services agreement with the Millstone Township Fire District, which operates the Millstone Township Fire Company.
During a presentation of the 2020 budget, officials discussed how it would incorporate an EMS operation funded by the municipality. Township Committee members said $260,000 has been allocated for the service. The 2020 municipal budget totals $6.9 million.
According to officials, EMS response will be provided through an agreement between the municipality and the fire company. The agreement is expected to be implemented during the second half of 2020.
The $260,000 appropriation in the budget includes $200,000 for an additional contribution to the fire company, $10,000 for a down payment on an ambulance and $50,000 for other capital items.
The presentation, which described the EMS response as the major addition to the 2020 budget, stated that Millstone needed a plan to provide residents with timely and affordable emergency medical services.
“Once performed on a volunteer basis, EMS now needs to be funded by the municipality to ensure citizens are receiving the care and attention they need, when they need it most,” Business Administrator Kevin Abernethy said.
“An outsourced service was being used to perform this service in 2019. The service that performed the function in 2019 has increased prices to a point where the municipality cannot afford to continue with the contract and, more importantly, the service provided to citizens was lacking in timeliness and quality of service,” he continued.
“We were paying about $9,000 a month and the provider collects the billable (services). They proposed to increase it to $44,000 a month and obviously, that is not a sustainable number,” Abernethy said.
According to municipal officials, the advantages of the agreement with the fire company will be direct management, the ability to better control and forecast costs, timeliness and consistency in service, stability, increased community involvement and controlling costs for taxpayers.
The initiation of the agreement with the fire company – which is comprised of volunteers and paid professionals – follows a decrease in personnel in the volunteer Millstone Township First Aid Squad.
The decrease in volunteers has been acknowledged by the Township Committee since 2016, when the first aid squad entered into a contract for ambulance services.
Committeeman Michael Kuczinski said different vendors have been used for first aid services.
“We were in a position where we have been, due to demographics and the changing of the way people did things 20 years ago, limited as far as our options in using a fully volunteer service,” Kuczinski said.
“We did not have the volunteer base (with the first aid squad) to continue the same performance we had in the past. It was a matter of not having enough manpower, not enough volunteers to be able to commit to the hours and time required.
“We have two things to our advantage by using the fire company,” he continued. “One, we have the professional, dedicated service we know and have trusted for many years. And two, they are not looking to make a profit. This is going to cost money, but it’s definitely the lowest cost option we have.”
Mayor Fiore Masci thanked the members of the first aid squad who provided volunteer EMS response to Millstone Township.
“We have a first squad in town and the members have done an outstanding job to the best of their ability with what they have,” he said.
“I want to make sure we are also mindful of thanking them for the dedicated years of service they put in and don’t lose sight of the people who have been here for many years.
“As times are changing, unfortunately, volunteers become less and less (involved). However, we are committed to making sure our first aid service is paramount,” Masci said.
Millstone Township’s 2020 budget will have a local tax levy of $3.32 million to be paid by residential and commercial property owners. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $528,310 will pay about $929 in municipal taxes for 2020.
Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Millstone Township K-8 School District taxes, Monmouth County taxes and a fire district tax.
An individual pays more or less in taxes based on the assessed value of his home and/or property, and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.