Fire Department Ups Fees For Ambulance Service Adding $290K To ’22 Budget

Photo: Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano

A jump in the fees to call a Belmont Fire Department ambulance will add more than a quarter of a million dollars to the town budget after the Belmont Select Board unanimously approved the cost hike at its virtual meeting on Monday, May 11.

The changes to what was called an out-of-date fee structure came after Chief David DeStefano compared the costs being charged for ambulance services in neighboring and comparable towns and finding Belmont should bump up its fees.

“Certainly it’s a forecast at this point, but it will come to fruition one day. I think that would definitely put us on the right path.” said DeStefano, who came before the board with an initial proposal three weeks earlier and was asked by the members to return with a more flushed out draft.

The new fee structure will be:

Service Former feeNew fee
Basic Life Service (BLS)$1,850$1,999
Advance Life Service 1 (ALS)$2,350$2,475
Advance Life Service 2 (ALS2)$2,800$2,950
Source: Belmont Fire Department

What does BLS, ALS all mean? Here’s a short explainer.

The per mile charge will rise to $40.

According to DeStefano, the estimated annual revenue in fiscal 2022 using the new fee structure – using historical data from 2020 – will bring in $953,000, compared with $662,000 in 2020. The change will result in an additional $291,000 coming into the town’s coffers.

“Clearly … the rates that we’re using are outdated and we need to get to higher rates so I’m full steam ahead,” said Board member Mark Paolillo.

Using a conservative estimate of $250,000 in new revenue coming to the ’22 budget, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the board the added monies could be used to fill critical personnel holes in several departments. “Any additions would have to have recurring revenue behind it, at least that’s my guiding philosophy on the budget,” said Garvin.

One such need is reinstating a Building Automation Systems Manager for the new Middle and High School who will oversee the efficient running of the building beginning in September. That post was set aside after the Proposition 2 1/2 override was defeated at the April Town Election.

The second position is a diversity coordinator the town could share with the Belmont schools. While there are “further discussions on how to develop and incorporate this position, either with the schools, the town or both,” Garvin would “park that position in the town’s budget” for now. Both positions would run between $105,000 to $110,000 in salary and benefits.

Dash said the two positions have been discussed in detail with the facilities department “having a dire need for sure” for the systems manager. “If we don’t maintain our [buildings], we’re just going to pay more later,” said Dash.

Paolillo did push back on the hiring of a full-time diversity director for the town suggesting the schools assume financial responsibility initially for the position and the town wait for the town’s diversity task force to make its recommendations before committing to a hire. He suggested diversity training for all employees could be a more impactful use of the new revenue.

Resident Bill Anderson told the board that new employees add to the town’s pension and OPEB obligations “and those could very easily add up.”

“There needs to be taken caution when adding permanent employees to a town that claims to be in a structural deficit,” he said.

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  1. Angus Davison says

    I also found it interesting that in the first discussion of the rates at the 4/26/21 meeting, the adjustment of rates was to come more in line with the local market and raise the rates to cover full costs. In the 5/10/21 meeting, the revenue from the rate change went to fund new, non Fire Department positions. Can the Town raise rates that exceed the cost of the service?

  2. Thomas Curran says

    Let’s start by saying great job by fire department to come up with more revenue. Now the bizzare issue is the TA spent the money within a minute of approval. Can someone please explain this. And how do you spend more money for new positions for school department but the Fire Dept budget is still being cut? Again proof of mismanagement by the towns leaders. But let the towns side departments get decimated for the school and management. Appears TA is taking this money to cover up her miscalculations and spending money that was never there to begin with.

    • Madeliene Marino says

      Madeliene Marino

      I agree with Mark Paolillo that it would have more of an impact system wide if diversity training was given to all of the teaching staff. It is the
      teachers who have direct contact with the children throughout the entire School District, not a proposed Diversity Coordinator with a starting salary of between $105,000 to $110,000 per year with benefits.

      I also have concerns with the Town Administrator deciding to spend the estimated $250,000 in increased fees for ambulance services provided by the Belmont Fire Department, for the benefit of the School Department in order to create two new School Positions. It is my understanding that the School Department, through an annual vote at Town Meeting, is provided with their complete school budget for the year which includes school staff salaries.

      I do believe that any money raised through an increase in ambulance fees, must be deposited into the same account where the existing ambulance fees are now deposited. I do not believe that it is proper to
      divert that money to the School Department Budget. Only Town Meeting can increase the School Department’s Budget by $250,000 for the creation of two new Professional Positions. Sadly, this is being proposed at the same time that the prospect of pink slips being given to teachers and other Town Employees is also being proposed. To me,
      this simply does not appear to be a wise, proper or educationally sound course of action at this time.

      Lastly, the estimated amount of a $250,000 increase per year, is just that, an estimate. It could be more or it could be less. What we do know
      however, is that ambulance fees will not be available in one lump sum.
      Payment for ambulance services will be paid by Health Insurance Companies and/or by the Residents, themselves. Therefore, I do not believe that the Town should make a decision to add new positions to the Town Budget/ Pension System when it is not clear how much money the Town can actually depend on receiving in a timely manner.

      I believe with the structural deficit that this Town now has, it might be prudent to actually try to put this money aside to use for emergencies.
      And, like Angus Davison (see above), I do think that if the Fire Department needs additional funds to keep the Department at optimal strength for the protection of the Town, then the additional revenue that they bring in should be used for the Fire Department. Need I remind the Town Administrator that with the new Middle School/High School, the Town will have to increase fire personnel in order to keep
      our children safe. This is a critical and essential Town Service.

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