The Huntington Community First Aid Squad’s budget for 2017 is being slashed.
Under Huntington’s proposed town budget, funding for the squad would go from $2,187,322 down to $856,535 — a decrease of 61 percent.
John Palmieri, president of the board of directors of the taxpayer-funded squad, called the cuts “drastic.”
“But we accept it because we know the town is not going to change the amount,” he said. “But this in no way will impact the quality of our service.”
The proposed reduced budget amount comes after an ongoing discussion between town and squad officials over about $2 million that the squad has in an account.
Squad officials say the account contains money they’ve collected over the years through donations and fundraisers, and the funds are to be used at their discretion. But town officials maintain the money should go toward running the agency instead.
“We had been looking for a plan to tap into those funds, and this is a start,” Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said.
The squad, which last month began hiring paid paramedics to supplement its formerly all-volunteer team of first responders, serves an area from Lloyd Harbor and Lloyd Neck in the north to Melville in the south, and from the Nassau/Suffolk border and Cold Spring Harbor in the west to Greenlawn and Dix Hills in the east.
Under Huntington’s proposed budget, the town’s contracted payment for the squad to provide emergency medical and ambulance service would go from the current $1.585 million to $200,000.
The town would make a $500,000 payment to the state on behalf of the squad for the Length of Service Award Program, a retirement-benefit program. That payment currently is $450,000.
An additional $156,535 would go toward two other line items in the budget.
When the squad signed its contract with the town in the spring, it included a provision for the squad to start billing patients’ insurance companies for emergency services that previously had been free.
Last month, the town board set the rates the squad is allowed to charge individuals or their insurance companies for services it provides.
The squad will charge $1,250 for intensive calls, such as those for cardiac arrest; $1,050 for slightly less-intensive calls, such as those for a diabetic emergency; and $775 for calls over such things as a broken limb or a motor-vehicle accident, Palmieri said. There also will be a $25 per mile fee.
Petrone said the proposed town budget will provide a “cushion” for the squad as it awaits payment from insurance companies for services rendered.
“These cuts in no way [are] going to infringe on them or the service,” Petrone said.
Huntington Community First Aid Squad
- Has been operating for more than 40 years.
- Based at 2 Railroad St. in Huntington Station.
- Operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.