23 September 1981
by Pam Hersh
Princeton Borough Council last week voted to “donate” $3,000 to the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad in order to sustain the employment of the paid daytime crew through the end of the year.
The $3,000, however is only band-aid treatment. The squad’s fiscal wound will fester again at the beginning of 1982, when the borough’s contribution runs out. The wound will continue to fester until the governments of the borough and the township find a permanent solution for funding the salaries of the two paid daytime crew members.
Borough Mayor Robert Cawley at a Monday press conference said the borough has made no final commitment to funding the daytime crew salaries; the borough’s financial contraints are “enormous,” and the funding question for the squad personnel will be decided again in two months at budget time.
THE TOWNSHIP, however, is “committed” to provide daytime first aid squad service for its residents on a permanent basis. “Although our funding has gone from year to year, the township somehow will stabilize the daytime service situation. The uncertainty of the situation is demoralizing and devastating to both the paid personnel as well as the volunteers.
“If the township has to, we could make the daytime crew township employees and charge the borough residents for daytime service,” said Township Committee member William Cherry at a meeting last Wednesday night. Mr. Cherry was chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Josie Hall.
At the Wednesday meeting, township committee members rejected a suggestion from the Borough Council to try a “pay as you go” first aid daytime service. Council members Barbara Hill and Richard Macgill proposed a system under which Princeton residents would be charged a fee for daytime use of the squad. The fee revenue would go directly to funding the paid daytime crew and any additional money needed for the salaries of the crew would come from the township and the borough on a ratable basis.
“We know this is an unpopular alternative, but we feel the borough residents are more concerned about their taxes than anything else. We thought the plan could be an alternative to raising taxes,” said Ms. Hill.
Although the township would not go along with the pay-as-you-go system, because it “more than likely” would cut down contributions and ruin the morale of the volunteers, said Mr. Cherry, the township committee members agreed to form a study committee with the borough to look into the funding problem.
THERE WAS no funding problem during the first year of the $36,000 paid daytime crew program. From April 1980 through April 1981, the two daytime employees were financed by the township and the borough on a ratable basis, the township paid two-thirds of the costs and the borough paid one third.
The funding crisis came this year when the township agreed to pay two-thirds ($24,000) of the program’s costs, but the borough only made a donation of $5,000. Mayor Cawley said some people have the mis-impression that the borough’s approval of the program for the first year guaranteed borough support for the future years of the paid personnel squad program.
If the borough had failed to appropriate an additional $3,000 last week, the daytime program would have died on Sept. 25.
Borough administrator Mark Gordon said he is taking the $3,000 from the borough’s administrative executive account, which funds expenses for council and administration offices. “Probably we will run short in this account, but after Nov. 1, we are allowed by the state to transfer monies from one account into another. Ultimately, I don’t know which area of the budget will have to bear the brunt of the additional $3,000 outlay. One thing I can say for sure is that we do not have that kind of money laying around,” said Mr. Gordon.
The daytime program will need another $4,000 to ensure its survival through the end of its second year of operation (April 30, 1982).
See COUNCIL, page 20A
(Continued from page 1A)
“EVEN IF WE get enough money to get us through April of next year, we can’t go on like this. The uncertainty of the funding situation is not fair to us and more importantly, not fair to the residents of the Princetons. I know the borough is in a bind. I know the borough has no quarrel with the squad, but I don’t know why we are getting treated in a different manner from the police” said Edwin Obert, captain of the squad.
The precarious state of the funding has resulted in the “probable loss”’ of one of daytime staff, John Kelty, who may go to work in Ocean or Middlesex County, according to Mr. Obert. The other paid daytime person, Joseph Dermen, who also serves as a volunteer at night, “so far still plans to stay with the daytime program, in spite of the problems.’’
The funds which the squad raises through private donations go for capital equipment purchases and operating costs. Last year the squad brought in $85,000, spent $70,000 for operating expenses and used the extra $15,000 to pay off a prior year’s debt acquired through the purchase of an ambulance.