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Who Should Pay for SUNY Fire Services?

By Jason Weinstein.
In 2015 224 of the Vestal Fire Department's 482 calls went to Binghamton University's campus. Town Supervisor John Schaffer says it's time for Vestal and other SUNY hosts to be compensated for that coverage.

"We're looking at purchasing a ladder truck this year that would primarily be used for SUNY Binghamton. $1.2 million. We're looking at revamping that station because the new equipment will not go in it. Our first estimate was $4.5 million," said Town of Vestal Supervisor John Schaffer (D).

In a statement a spokesperson for BU said, "We greatly appreciate the support we have received from the Town of Vestal and its emergency responders. We do recognize that this is a volunteer department."

BU says it has worked to reduce Vestal Fire's calls to campus by 60% over the past two years. Hartwick College economics professor Larry Malone has written about the impact tax-exempt colleges like SUNY schools have on the bottom line in towns like Oneonta.

"There are 7,000 students and 6,500 people like me (residents)," said Malone.

And the 6,500 are paying for the services of the entire 13,500?

"Yes," said Malone. "It's fairly harsh language but my discipline refers to this situation where the students would be free free riders. So they're consuming the services but they're not paying for them.

Malone has suggested a $100 per student annual fee to help pay for municipal services.

"Here in Oneonta that would amount to three quarters of a million dollars. It would eliminate the annual deficit that we are dealing with," said Malone.

Some leaders in Albany have their own ideas. State Senator James Seward has introduced a bill that would provide "impact aid" to municipalities hosting four-year SUNY schools.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo has co-sponsored a bill that would send a total of $12 million to all host communities to offset the cost of providing services.

"It's something they should do on their own but I think it's going to take some sort of state legislation to get it pushed," said Schaffer.

"I like the chances. I think it's reasonable and I think it does have some momentum up in Albany," said Malone.

****Jason Weinstein, Fox 40 HD News****