The owns of Jay and Black Brook have jointly contracted with the Au Sable Forks Volunteer Ambulance Service (AFVAS) for decades and shared the expenses roughly 2/3 for Town of Jay and 1/3 for Town of Black Brook. This number has been based on assessed property values in the different towns but has also been similar to actual call volumes in the towns. While call volumes seem to have remained at the same share, the towns’ assessed values have changed to 70.2/29.8%, shifting an undue burden on the Town of Jay taxpayers.
Historically we have been blessed with a wonderful group of volunteers and some paid employees in the Ambulance Services. However, like many other volunteer services organizations, a volunteer shortage has caused the need for more paid staff, which has led to significant increases in expenses, especially in recent years given the increases in cost of labor.
The proposed 2024 AFVAS budget seems very appropriate, but the proposed change in the town shares and the increased labor costs, causes major challenges for the Town of Jay, as the initial budget request was a 55% increase ($132K increase compared to 2023) to the Town of Jay, which is on top of some large increase in recent prior years. This increase is more than double our estimated 2024 Tax cap.
To reiterate, the budget as proposed seems appropriate, and we are blessed with the AFVAS consistently providing a very high level of critical services by a great group of people!
We want to make sure we can execute an EMS contract that can provide quality services while still being fiscally responsible. Four major factors need to be considered:
- Town share/financial split for the AFVAS.
- Black Brook Feasibility study for their own EMS.
- Fund accounts currently proposed in this year’s budgets.
- The future of Essex County EMS
|Jay||$189,400.00||$202,000.00||$ 221,981.00||$ 374,000.00|
|Black Brook||$ 94,911.00||$98,500.00||$129,686.00||$ 159,000.00|
For any EMS service, regardless of size, requirements we believe are one pair (2 people) of full-time staff 24 hrs/day, 7 days per week, 365 days/year and the cost of an ambulance, which are the major cost factors. Therefore, these labors costs should be split 50/50 by the towns and each town being financially responsible for 1 ambulance, still saving both towns significant costs by sharing the shared service provided by AFVAS. For simplicity, the remainder of the expenses can be shared based on call volume split.
We have reached out to Black Brook and AFVAS about our concerns outlining what we feel would be a path forward for continued shared services and offer a pathway forward to strong EMS service for both towns, while at the same time serving to benefiting both towns from having unnecessary costs of duplicating services.
Black Brook feasibility study for their own Ambulance Service
The Town of Black Brook is in the process of a feasibility study for their own EMS. It is unclear what this means to the continued relationship between the towns and the AFVAS, and while we would prefer to retain shared services with the Town of Black Brook and the AFVAS, this choice may ultimately not be up to us.
Separating shared EMS services would result in additional financial burdens to both towns. If a separation of services was to happen now both towns would be independently responsible for providing EMS. This means 4 employees vs. 2, and each town responsible for having at least 1 Ambulance in addition to duplication of additional equipment and buildings.
Fund accounts currently proposed in this year’s budgets.
As is prudent, the AFVAS budget contains a $62K provision for new equipment fund. However, with the uncertainty and a potential dissolution of the shared services if the Town of Black Brook implements their own EMS, it would not be prudent for the Town of Jay to further fund any reserve funds until we have a better idea of what the future holds. In the meantime, it is our intent to consider an internal ambulance equipment fund within our Town of Jay general fund.
A future Essex County EMS
In 2019 Essex County was awarded a Grant under the DoS Municipal Restructuring Fund (MRF) for county wide EMS services. This grant aids towns in need of EMS in various ways, and funds from the grant are expected to be available through late 2024. After the grant monies have run out, Essex County EMS will be funded by property taxes, which may result in the Town of Jay property owners paying additional taxes to Essex County for EMS. We are in discussions with Essex County EMS as to how the Town of Jay best can benefit from any additional taxes paid, which could be in the form of staffing provided by Essex County EMS, or other means to be determined.