Valatie Rescue Squad asks for funds transfusion from town

VALATIE–Kinderhook Town Supervisor Pat Grattan presented the proposed 2020 town budget at the Town Board meeting on Monday. He said the numbers in the proposed budget are “a wish list” and the board needs to meet to work on getting the budget under the state mandated tax cap.

One noticeable increase in the proposed budget is about $100,000 more next year in the budget line for the Valatie Rescue Squad (VRS). VRS Executive Director Scott Bowman was at the October 7 meeting to present the increase to the board. In 2019, the town budgeted $209,469 for VRS. The proposed 2020 budget has that number as $308,063. Mr. Bowman said that VRS has been running in the red for several years and this year the squad is looking at $115,000 deficit.

“Prior to that we’d run a little bit in the red, a little bit in the black,” he told the board. But he said, “The cost of providing the service has just sky rocketed.”

At the October 7 meeting the Kinderhook Town Board and Town Supervisor Pat Grattan (l) honored Guy Gamello (r) with an award for his lifetime of service to the community and town. Several members of his family joined him at the meeting including his wife Edna, grandson Zac, and children Guy, Susan, William and Linda. At 90, Mr. Gamello has been a barber on Main Street in Valatie since he left the US Army in 1953. He continues in this business today with his daughter Linda. Photo contributed

He said the biggest expense for the rescue squad is staff. Mr. Bowman said he thinks they are the largest employer in the town, with 35 total employees, 12 full time. Mr. Grattan pointed out the VRS annual budget is $1.6 million and Mr. Bowman said $1.2 million of that is related to personnel. VRS receives funding from the towns of Kinderhook and Stuyvesant, as well as Chatham, Ghent and Stockport. Mr. Bowman said that Kinderhook is the largest town the rescue squad serves, and that it covers smaller portions of the Chatham, Ghent and Stockport. But he said the squad has been or will be meeting with all the towns served about funding. He also said that fundraising brings in about $44,000 a year. The squad also receives some funds from training services VRS offers. VRS gets no state funding.

Mr. Bowman pointed out that the ambulance and EMT services the rescue squad offers are for the taxpayers and need to be funded. “We’ve been really, really good about pinching pennies,” he said but that “it takes dollars” to run the services. He said that many rescue squads in the state have had to close due to funding.

One big revenue loss for VRS, Mr. Bowman said, is from fewer calls now that The Grand has taken over Barnwell, a rehabilitation and nursing home in the Village of Valatie. He said that has caused a $250,000 decrease in revenue. He also said that much of the time VRS picks up patients with Medicare or Medicaid insurance and that both federal programs are slow to reimburse for services.

Mr. Bowman pointed out that the VRS had not come to board in five or six years asking for an increase in funding. But now, he said, “We’re just not going to be able to make it.”

The board will continue to discuss the whole town budget, including the increase for VRS, at two budget workshops in October: Tuesday, October 15 at 6:30 p.m. and Monday, October 21 also at 6:30 p.m. at the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building. The board plans to host a special board meeting on November 6 to pass the 2020 town budget. Mr. Grattan said the board had to some work to do on the budget and that he assumed the “tax rate was probably going to be stable” for next year.

Mr. Grattan is not running for reelection after serving as town supervisor for a decade.

Also at the meeting:

• The board honored Guy Gamello, who turned 90 this year. Mr. Gamello, who as at the meeting with his family, has owned a barber shop on Main Street in Valatie for 71 years. Mr. Grattan said that Mr. Gamello is “still working every day.” The supervisor also said, “You’ve had a lifetime of service to the Town of Kinderhoook and village.” Mr. Gamello, who as presented with the plaque, thanked the board and said that people volunteering is “how things get done”

• Mr. Grattan asked Councilman Phil Bickerton to look into an offer from National Grid to replace the lighting in the roundabout to LED bulbs. Mr. Grattan said there would be financial savings to make the change but he wanted to make sure it was the correct lighting for the area

The board moved the next meeting date to November 18. The regular monthly meeting would have fallen on the day before Election Day, which Mr. Grattan said is a busy time in the Glynn Building. The November 18 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. The Glynn Building in Valatie is a polling place on Election Day, November 5, and will also be a site for early voting starting October 26 through November 3.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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