Asking Voters to Approve a New Funding Plan for Emergency Medical Equipment
February 1, 2019
by Len Lathrop
Have you started to think about what decisions you will be part of when Hudson voters gather on Saturday in the recreation center? Warrant articles will need to be reviewed and sent to the secret ballot for the March 12 election.
The 19th question will ask voters to authorize a different method for funding emergency medical equipment and apparatus. The goal, as stated by Fire Chief Robert Buxton on the Jan. 25 “Friday with the Fox” radio broadcast, is to have a system that keeps EMS equipment current and competent, without causing a spike in the tax rate, whenever new or replacement vehicles or items are required.
Ambulances are the largest expense in the EMS operation. For as long as can be remembered, every year voters put money into a capital reserve fund to purchase a necessary EMS vehicle at the end of its useful life of about nine years. With three trucks in the town now at each of the three stations, the needed funds of about $250,000 to $300,000 must be available for necessary purchases.
Changes in state law relative to capital reserve funds and how the question should be asked of the voters brought forward this new approach designed to keep the tax impact level.
Article 19 reads, “Shall the Town of Hudson vote to establish an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) revolving fund pursuant to NH RSA 31:95-h (b) for the purpose of providing ambulance services? 50% of revenues received from ambulance transports, or other revenues received from Hudson Fire Department Ambulance operations shall be deposited into this fund, and the money shall be allowed to accumulate from year to year, and shall not be considered part of the Town’s general surplus. The Town Treasurer shall have custody of all moneys in the fund, and shall pay out the same only upon order of the Board of Selectmen, and no further approval of the Town Meeting shall be required to expend from the fund. These funds may be expended only for purposes of Ambulance Services, by order of the Board of Selectmen, and no further approval of the Town Meeting shall be required to expend from the fund. These funds may be expended only for purposes of Ambulance Services, EMS equipment, maintenance, supplies, training and education, renovation, or associated operating and administrative purposes. The EMS revolving fund shall go into effect on July 1, 2020. (Recommended by the Board of Selectmen 5-0) (Recommended by the Budget Committee 9-0) No tax rate impact.”
The town invoices patients who need medical service; currently it generates about $800,000 per year. The new system will put 60 percent of the collected funds into an account, which can be used to purchase the needed equipment; the purchase will still need selectmen’s approval. In addition to the ambulance cost, a new stretcher costs about $27,000, a defibrillator is roughly $4,000, and remember that Hudson needs three each of these items.
Two frequent questions that the Chief covered were about the billing of Hudson citizens and, yes, everyone is billed. But an option is available for Hudson residents who don’t have medical coverage to apply for payment plans and other means of support. Another question asked during the radio broadcast, that was more applicable for the town treasurer, was whether the funds, when not needed, would be invested for growth of the town. Under the current system of using the capital reserve fund, the excess goes into the surplus account that selectmen can use for other cost centers. But that fund is primarily for cash flow needs of the town.
Questions can be presented by voters on Saturday at the deliberative meeting or can be asked of the fire chief.