This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
AMBULANCE DISTRICTS -- Fees (authority to impose to offset ambulance district costs)
AMBULANCE SERVICE -- Fees (authority to impose to offset ambulance district costs)
TOWN LAW, §§198(10-f), 202, 202-a: A town board on behalf of an ambulance district may impose fees upon users of the ambulance district services to offset district costs and raise the remainder of district costs by ad valorem assessment.
You state that the town has formed an ambulance district and contracted with a not-for-profit corporation for the provision of personnel to operate district-owned vehicles in connection with providing ambulance service within the district. The town currently raises operation and maintenance costs of the district by assessments against benefited properties. You ask whether the district also may charge a fee to persons utilizing the services of the ambulance district and retain the fees for use by the district.
Pursuant to articles 12 or 12-A of the Town Law, a town may establish ambulance districts to provide emergency medical service, general ambulance service or a combination of such services within the boundaries of the district (Town Law, §§190, 198[10-f], 209). Once an ambulance district is established, the board is authorized, inter alia, to contract on behalf of the district with one or more qualified organizations for the operation, maintenance and repair of emergency medical service or ambulance vehicles, and for the furnishing of pre-hospital emergency treatment (Town Law, §198[10-f][a][ii]).
Town Law, §§202(3) and 202-a(1) provide that the costs of establishment and operation and maintenance of an ambulance district "shall" be assessed against the properties within the district on an ad valorem basis. Pursuant to Town Law, §198(10-f)(b), however, the town board is also authorized to fix a schedule of fees or charges to be paid by persons requesting use of ambulance district facilities, provide for the collection of such fees and charges, or formulate rules and regulations for the collection thereof by the entities furnishing services under contract. This provision authorizes the town to charge fees on a per call basis to users of the district's ambulance services (see 1982 Opns St Comp No. 82-26, p 33).
Notwithstanding the apparently mandatory language in sections 202 and 202-a, we have previously expressed the opinion, with respect to a town water district, that those sections require a town to levy assessments for the cost of the establishment and operation and maintenance of the district only to the extent that the costs are not raised by user charges (1989 Opns St Comp No. 89-59, p 131). Similarly, it is our opinion that a town board on behalf of an ambulance district may impose fees upon users of the ambulance district services to offset district costs and raise the remainder of district costs by ad valorem assessment.
October 22, 1993
Myron I. Mandel, Esq., Town Attorney
Town of Highlands