Town of Huntington officials have asked the New York State comptroller to look at the books of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad after it was found to have a $2.3 million surplus.
In the recently released proposed $188.7 million town budget for 2016, the town calls for an 8 percent cut to the squad's budget. In a letter signed by Town Supervisor Frank Petrone and sent Friday to some residents, the decision to trim the squad's budget was based on the town's analysis of its finances, which indicates the squad has been carrying a cash balance in its operating budget for the past four years.
Members of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad say they plan to show up in force at the town board meeting Tuesday night to protest the cuts. The meeting is at Town Hall, 100 Main St., and starts at 6 p.m.
Petrone's letter says the town reviewed the squad's latest filing with the Internal Revenue Service for the incorporated not-for-profit arm of the squad. End of year balances for 2013, which is the latest filing year available, indicate that the squad reported cash on hand of $1.293 million and investments of $1.03 million for a total of $2.3 million.
The Huntington Ambulance District was created in 1984 to allow public funding and act as an agency to hire a vendor to provide ambulance services. Since that time the district, under the jurisdiction of the town, has entered into a contract with the Huntington Community First Aid Squad as a vendor to provide service.
"We are the district, they are a contractor of ours, I feel it behooves us to have the state comptroller review their entire financial operation," Petrone said.
A spokeswoman for the squad, Andrea Golinsky, said the town budget cut is actually more than 8 percent. She said the all-volunteer squad also has $475,000 in operating cash in addition to the $2.3 million.
She said the $2.3 million is from donations collected over the years and has been put aside to pay for member benefits such as insurance, she said. That money also serves as a contingency fund to purchase land or another building.
Golinsky also said the cost of running the squad continues to go up as costs to buy such things as oxygen, supplies and equipment rise.
"With the economy, and everything going up we need to at least maintain our budget let alone get an increase," she said.
Petrone says the cash and surplus are taxpayer money that must be used to fund squad operations.
The proposed 2016 town budget also calls for the Commack Ambulance District to get a nearly 25 percent cut. Earlier this year Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps officials said it would likely start billing patients' insurance companies for emergency services by the end of this year.