Unknown fate of ambulance service leaves Utica budget with a $2 million variable

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - There is an uncontrolled variable on the horizon that could carve a nearly $2 million hole in Utica's proposed city budget and force even more than the 38 layoffs than Mayor Robert Palmieri is currently proposing in order to balance the budget.

It's the city's ambulance service.

There currently is $1.8 million in the proposed budget from the ambulance service, operated by the Utica Fire Department. However, the very existence of the ambulance service is in question, and that money is far from guaranteed.

City officials are waiting for a ruling due any time now from the New York State Court of Appeals. At issue is whether the city can now obtain the Certificate of Need required for operation of the service. The certificate was not obtained at its inception in 2005.

What if the ambulance service and its projected $1.8 million in the proposed budget go away?

"It's a very serious game-changer," says City Comptroller Michael Cerminaro.

The money would have to come from somewhere. The question is, from where, in an already bare-bones budget that cuts 38 positions and raises taxes 18.19%.

It's not clear when the NYS Court of Appeals will rule. Local officials only know to expect a decision on a Thursday.

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