In plan for ambulance services, Albion burdened with far too much of the cost

Posted 15 November 2022 at 4:34 pm


Here we go again. Officials in Orleans County had in the past year or so start to address the difficulty of COVA continuing to provide ambulance service without new financial support.

But, instead of creating a plan that shares costs equally, the leaders of seven towns in Orleans County have unfairly moved to place disproportionate costs onto Town of Albion residents.

I first saw some details in the Orleans Hub article on Nov. 9 about the Town of Barre voting to pay their small $8,000 or 4 percent contribution. I went to the Town of Albion board meeting last night and saw the package for our 42.2 percent share being approved. Those contributions are said to be based on the share of ambulance calls in the 7 towns of central and eastern Orleans County.

The United States Census reports the Town of Albion share of population as about 30 percent of the 7 towns, but that includes inmates in the prisons and jail as well as residents in medical facilities. The prison populations should at least be discounted to result in a population share of about 25 percent – as those facilities are not taxed, the community benefit is the jobs, and the employees live throughout the region – not just in the Town of Albion. Additionally, the Town of Albion has a 18.36 percent share of the taxable assessed property value for the 7 towns.

Why is it that when it comes to sales tax, the money isn’t distributed where it is collected or where it is needed most? Instead, the county keeps about 93 percdent of it and distributes the rest to towns based on population, with villages getting a share based on property assessments (as I understand it).

Because village property values are depressed due to their high tax rates a disproportionate share of sales tax money goes to people who live outside of villages. There shouldn’t be one formula for handing out money and another formula for paying for services – both of which disadvantage residents in or near villages.

As to the share that the county keeps it seems to me that most of their discretionary money goes to repair items in the countryside and the villages are an afterthought.

There are many reasons why it is dubious to use ambulance call volume to allocate costs. The information has not been made available (to my knowledge) for the public to analyze – as is done for property assessments.

And the Town of Albion is much more of a daily destination for residents of other towns – we have the schools, county buildings, nursing home, doctors’ offices, healthcare facilities, support facilities for the disabled, grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants, religious buildings, cemeteries, parks, the library, banks, factories, automotive parts stores, auto repair shops, and vehicle dealers – to name a few. I’d guess that the ambulance call statistics are reflecting where the ambulances are being sent to instead of where the people receiving help actually live.

This is a continuation of a pattern in Orleans County of placing a higher tax burden on people who live in the villages and a lower burden on the people who live in the countryside. It was said last night that people in the 3 western towns felt that paying to support the Village of Medina ambulance based on call volume was working well. Of course they think that way because it keeps the town taxes lower and shifts costs onto the Village of Medina. Medina has the highest tax rate of any village in Orleans County and every village in Orleans County has higher tax rates than any other village in Niagara, Genesee and Monroe counties. In general, the average village tax rates in Orleans County are at least double that of the other three neighboring counties.

People who live in the villages and adjacent areas should be paying the lowest taxes for basic services as we have the population density to provide those services efficiently. The Village of Medina has their own hospital and an ambulance ride surely has to be cheaper to provide to a village resident than for someone who lives by the lake in Yates. But the elected officials in this county have flipped the tables.

Going into last night’s meeting I was at least thankful that the Village of Albion was wise enough to stay out of this negotiation, as I’m sure people would have been happy to shift extra costs into our village. When I left the meeting, I was less thankful as it seems the leaders expect the Village of Albion to supply space to garage the one Monroe ambulance for Albion. I expect that they are looking for free garage space, but I personally hope that the village charges a fair rent instead. This ambulance serves the seven towns, and we already will be paying a ridiculous share.

This situation is setting a precedent for higher Albion taxes in the future. The next thing to come is likely to be paid firefighters and I expect that Orleans politicians will again work to place higher costs onto Albion. This needs to stop and our representatives need to fight for Albion more.

As to the ambulance provider, it seemed pretty clear that the process that has been used to address this for the past few years has had a lot of its work done behind the scenes and is rolling along to having Monroe Ambulance here next year. Mercy Flight has apparently submitted a proposal for a bit less money, and which would take over COVA’s existing service based in Albion and have an additional ambulance over Monroe. But it was said to be an 11th hour proposal that was too late. It is funny how that logic wasn’t a concern when it came to sharing with the public how much money each town would contribute.

The new Monroe Ambulance contract seems to me to offer an inferior service level to what we have today – especially with the Kendall ambulance shutting down. I was particularly unimpressed to find out that the current contract with the 3 eastern towns does not have an ambulance currently stationed in Orleans County. It almost seems that they are cherry-picking the profitable business they can get and the focus is not on providing a reliable service for county residents. Perhaps in Monroe County they can rely on paid fire departments to serve as backup, but that seems less of an option here.

I have no idea how well COVA as a business has been run. I’ve been lucky enough to have family receive good service from them. But I’ve also heard how hard it has been to get staff when ambulance calls come it – not surprising given how finances have changed over the years and for how long the issue of financial support has gone unaddressed. My impression though is that over the decades COVA has been in it to serve the community.

Jason Dragon

Albion (resident of village and town)