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UPVAA Makes its Pitch for Financial Help
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            The Upper Perkiomen Valley Ambulance Association is seeking $176,000 to remain viable. The organization is hoping to secure those funds through four core municipalities.

            This week, Chief of Operations Keith Long and Board President and Treasurer Ed Buchinski addressed elected officials in three municipalities. On Monday, they made their pitch to East Greenville Council for the creation of a dedicated ambulance tax. The following two nights, they made similar presentations to the Pennsburg and Red Hill councils.

            "We need the money to stay in business," Buchinski told East Greenville council on Monday.  Buchinski, who also serves as UPVAA's treasurer, asked each council to allocate a 0.25 millage increase that would go directly towards paying the organization's employees. He argued that the need to raise salaries by four percent to retain staff, combined with a recent precipitous drop off in calls and limited reimbursements from public and private health insurance entities as well the increased cost of doing business, led to the financial issues.

            The treasurer told members of East Greenville and Pennsburg councils that the majority of the money would be used to cover $146,000 in increased payroll costs. Administrators issued the raises to prevent its EMT and paramedics from jumping to other companies or taking jobs in other industries, according to Long.

            In July, the Upper Hanover supervisors granted conditional approval of a dedicated tax increase at 1/4 of a mill. However, it would only take effect if the neighboring borough passes similar measures.

            At those rates or with an equivalent donation, the service is anticipating a $116,000 contribution from Upper Hanover, $38,000 from Pennsburg, and $27,000 each from East Greenville and Red Hill.

            Buchinski estimated that the average property owner in the three boroughs would pay an additional $26.25 annually. He equated the cost to 7.2 cents per day.

            On Monday, Buchinski made the request that each borough continue to make its annual budget contributions (Pennsburg $10,000, East Greenville $7,000 and Red Hill $2,000).

            East Greenville Council President Angie Fegely expressed concerns with that item. She described it as a double tax on the borough's residents. "That's double dipping," Fegely said.

            The service is considering applying for a tax anticipation loan. Buchinski called it the organization's best option "to keep us in business through the end of the year." He told Pennsburg council that he hopes to avoid taking out an equity loan on its station--located at 2199 East Buck Road in Upper Hanover--to generate operating capital,

            During the last fiscal year the service lost, on average, $193 per call according to Buchinski. He told Pennsburg council that amounted to an operational loss of $311,649. It made up that deficit through fundraising, a membership drive, donations and the occasional acquisition of a grant.

            Pennsburg council seemed amenable to addressing Buchinski's concerns. Member Keith Goodwin described the organization as "a value we need to figure out how to maintain."

            President Diane Stevens said council could be prepared to take action following an intergovernmental meeting between all three boroughs. According to Stevens, Red Hill Council President Doris Decker requested the meeting.

            "We realize there is a problem," Stevens said prior to Tuesday's presentation. "We want to help come up with a solution for the entire Valley."






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