A plan to expand the Mount Sinai ambulance district to encompass Port Jefferson and Belle Terre at the request of each village’s board of trustees has been approved by the villages and Brookhaven Town.
The new district will be renamed the Tri-Harbor Ambulance District.
It will be business as usual for the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company, which covers the district and has been responding to calls from both villages for years.
It’s mostly a behind-the-scenes change that will go unnoticed by residents, except how they pay for services under the new plan on their tax bills.
In the former district, Brookhaven Town and both villages contracted separately with the ambulance company for their services, with the town contract covering the hamlet of Mount Sinai.
Now, Brookhaven Town will have one contract with one ambulance company to provide service for the entire area.
The Port Jefferson Ambulance Company operates out of its headquarters at 25 Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai.
Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant told GreaterPortJeff that separate timing for the town and villages budget seasons caused difficulty.
The villages were also concerned that they had a minority stake making decisions in the way the ambulance company operated.
Garant clarified that the redistricting isn’t really an expansion since both villages were already in the service area, just contracted by separate agreements.
“We are just handing full control back to the town instead of being ‘minority partners’,” she said.
Garant said she fully supports the ambulance company, even helping them get in touch with state officials to garner grants for new equipment.
She was mostly concerned about budgeting and the fact that the villages engaged in what she called “micro contracts” with the company that gave them little to no input in decision making.
“We had no say at the table when doing the budget,” Garant said.
A study for the redistricting was conducted by KPC Planning Services in 2018. According to the report, the ambulance company services about 20,000 residents within the district and the villages.
Click here for the full report: Ambulance Redistrict Plan 2018
There should be no change in the area the company covers or the population in the redistricting.
The financial impact of the change is complicated, with village residents seeing a new assessment for ambulance services from the town on their tax bill but a reduction in their village taxes.
Mount Sinai residents should expect a decrease in cost for services.
During a Brookhaven Town Board meeting, the responsibility for the budget between each hamlet was also discussed.
Under separate contracts, Mount Sinai was responsible for 51 percent of the budget, Port Jefferson carried 41 percent and Belle Terre 8 percent.
Under the new plan, Mount Sinai’s share of the total budget for services will be reduced to 38.5 percent, Port Jefferson increases to 57.75 percent with the remainder coming from Belle Terre.
A town official said that call volume for Port Jefferson Village is estimated at 56 percent of total calls and that the increase to the village was “not unreasonable.”
The total budget in 2019 for the Port Jefferson Ambulance Company to provide service to Tri-Harbor Ambulance District is estimated to be $1,555,000.
The cost to the average household for the new district is projected at $119 per year based on a tax rate of $3.84 per hundred in assessed value for all three areas.
Ultimately, the residents of both villages are seeing EMS service costs shift at the same time they are coming to grips with a LIPA tax grievance settlement, which will increase village taxes on a sliding scale over the next eight years, making it even more complicated to figure out the difference.
The report stated that the expansion will “greatly benefit and streamline the ambulance district and result in greater operational and logistic efficiencies.”
It will also eliminate what it referred to as a “bureaucratic three-ring tangle.”
The change is not unprecedented.
According to town officials, in 1995, the villages of Port Jefferson and Belle Terre requested to extend the Mount Sinai ambulance district to include the incorporated villages.
In 1997, the Town Board then authorized a dissolution of district.
Mayor Garant said when the original districts were created the idea was to create better emergency response.
“The ambulances used to have a place in Mather Hospital,” she said. “We had a little more control.”