Bensalem Adding Rescue Squad Tax Increase Referendum To November Ballot

BRS Chief Topley speaks. Photo via Bensalem Township.

Bensalem Township Council has voted to put a referendum for a potential tax increase on November’s ballot. If passed, it would increase funding for the Bensalem Rescue Squad.

It would amount to an average increase of $21 in taxes per homeowner to generate $150,000 per year for the Bensalem Rescue Squad.

BRS Executive Director Thomas Topley told council at its most recent meeting the squad handles nearly 8,000 calls per year. BRS’s call volume is about 15 percent the total call volume in Bucks County.

“Our hard work has gained us the reputation of as one of the best organizations in the region,” said Topley.

The Bensalem Mobile Stroke Unit. Photo via Bensalem Township.

In 2019, it Jefferson Health chose to partner with BRS to add a new Mobile Stroke Unit. At the time, Dr. Robert Rossenwasser called the squad “a world class EMS unit.”

Despite its large role in the community, BRS is losing members. Three members recently left to other squads offering better pay.

With aging equipment, Topley said the squad is reaching a “crossroads.”

The oldest ambulance body in their fleet is from 2003. It has seen almost 350,000 miles. Plus, the squad has not purchased a new vehicle in nearly a decade.

“We have to start buying new ambulances,” said Topley.

He also noted he wants to increase the fleet size from six ambulances to a minimum of seven. During a two hour window Monday night, BRS received nine emergency calls. They were able to respond to five of them, according to Topley.

However, the biggest problem for BRS is a shortage of paramedics and EMTs throughout the nation. This is making it difficult to hire and keep first responders.

Squad members have not seen a base salary increase besides cost of living adjustments since 2010. 

For the first time in at least a decade, three paramedics recently left to other nearby squads offering better pay.

Bensalem Council voted unanimously to put the measure on the referendum and members voiced their support for the squad.

“It’s been a long time since this request was made to the residents so I think they’ll certainly understand it,” said Council President Edward Kisselback. “I think it’s money well spent and I appreciate everything you do for us Tom.”

“I think you guys do an outstanding job,” said Councilman Joseph Knowles. “I’m in full support of it.”

The voters of Bensalem must approve the referendum on November 3 for the tax increase to take effect.