Borough balks at funding squad

Princeton Packet
18 February 1981

Borough balks at funding squad

by Pam Hersh
Staff Writer

The lifeline thrown to the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad by the Princeton Township Committee falls short by several thousands of dollars because Princeton Borough Council has not come up with its share of the money to fund the squad’s daytime paramedic service.

“The paid paramedic service for 1981/82 will definitely go under if the squad fails to get the program fully funded by the municipalities.” said Squad Captain Edwin Obert during an interview on Tuesday.

At the Feb. 7 joint budget meeting, the Township Committee voted to fund for one year beginning April 1981 its share (two-thirds) of the paid paramedic program. The contribution from the township would amount to approximately $24,000. However, Borough Council members would not commit themselves to a $12,000 contribution, or one-third of the cost.

The total expense of the paid daytime paramedic service in 1980 was divided on a two-thirds/one-third basis, in proportion to the ratables of the two Princetons. The 1980 funding will go through April of 1981, because the program got started in April 1980.

THE REASON for the Borough Council’s reluctance to fund the paramedic program is “simply we can’t afford this level of contribution,” said borough Mayor Robert Cawley. Council woman Barbara Hill said they wanted to investigate more thoroughly “all possible channels of funding for the paramedic program.”

But Mr. Obcrt is not optimistic about finding additional sources of money for the squad.

“We have already tapped the community about as much as we possible can. Our fund-raising efforts are massive and we have used just about all the gimmicks. We really cannot ask our volunteers to spend more time soliciting funds. First aid squad volunteers want to save lives; fundraising is part of that effort, but it should not be an all encompassing effort.”

The paramedic program cannot be operated on a partial basis, according to Mr. Obert. Council members inquired whether the service could be operated with only one man or on a shorter workday arrangement.

“Although this may sound reasonable, a part-time operation would defeat the purpose of a paid paramedic service. We need 9 a m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Friday coverage, because we have no volunteers to come out and
answer calls.

“The dearth of volunteers is especially bad during the school session. Two men have to operate the life-mobile. If we only had one paid employee, we could not guarantee a volunteer who would be able to answer daytime calls,” he said.

The squad’s paid paramedic, Joseph Durman, said at the joint budget meeting that he finds the borough’s hesitation to fund the program “surprising” because the borough gets more than 50 percent of the service. “Even though the borough only pays for one-third of the service, our records indicated they get more than half of the calls,” he said.

If the borough sticks to its resolution to give no money to the squad and if the squad can not raise additional money, “it will be up to the township as to whether it wants to still give the squad its portion of the paramedic program contribution,” said Mr. Obert. The township’s money would keep the paramedic service going through December.

NO OTHER new budget decisions came out of Saturday’s joint budget meeting. The council and committee reaffirmed their decision to cut off funding for the Senior Citizen Resource Center and to cut 2.5 percent from the administrators’ versions of the various joint budgets.

By juggling some categories outside of the cap, the municipalities were able to restore small amounts of money to the health department budget and to the civil rights commission. Nothing was resolved concerning the welfare director’s position.

The council and committee members also discussed a memo from lawyer Edwin Schmierer who offered his opinion on the legality of setting up a revolving trust fund operation for all recreation board activities.

According to Mr. Schmierer, “there is nothing in the recreation board’s organizational law which prohibits the board from retaining their fees. The law says the board can provide for any reasonable means of financing. And I don’t see why the recreation board would be any different from the library, which is authorized to keep its fines and fees.”

The recreation board estimates that $93,000 of its income comes from fees. If the $93,000 doesn’t have to be reported as income to the municipalities, the money falls outside of the municipal caps.

THE MUNICIPALITIES have to introduce their budgets by March 19. “We are trying to act as quickly as possible, but the Princetons — and all other municipalities in the state — are being held up bv the legislature’s inaction on the Degnan sale of municipal assets decision.” said Mayor Cawley.

The towns are waiting to hear whether the money from the sales of municipal assets is to be included in the revenue base upon which the 5 percent cap is figured. Attorney General Degnan ruled the municipalities have been computing their caps incorrectly, because they have been counting the revenue from the sale of assets and urban aid as pan of their base budget when computing the 5 percent cap. Mr. Degnan said the cap increases should be recomputed for each year and adjustments made retroactively.

The implementation of the retroactive element of the Degnan decision would be “devastating” to all municipalities, said Mayor Cawley, and all the New Jersey municipalities have been figuring their 1981 budgets on the assumption that the legislature would overrule the retroactive aspect of the decision.

The legislature only holds two more sessions before it recesses for one month. When it returns, the budget introduction deadline will have passed. Several bills to adjust the Degnan decision have been introduced within the past six weeks, but all have been bottlenecked at one point or another in the Senate or Assembly.

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