SALEM, NJ (CBS) — Financial problems in a small New Jersey town have forced city officials to enact an ordinance that will charge residents for rescue services.

The life-saving response of fire personnel in Salem to a house fire or car wreck is something city officials plan to bill residents for, in the form of a claim to their insurance company.

“If the municipality has something on the books that the fire department may receive a reimbursement for the costs,” Salem City Council member Charles Washington said.

Salem’s mayor and city council members assured residents that all 911 calls will be answered.

“Please don’t let the fee associated with this ordinance scare you off. We’re still here to save lives,” Washington said.

If residents do not have insurance, they will not be billed, city officials said.

The surcharge for a single family dwelling is $500, while a multiple family dwelling is $1000. The surcharge for a car wreck would be $750.

The ordinance could help Salem increase revenue by $40,000 and help the city operate under Governor Chris Christie’s new two percent property tax cap.

“It’s a coverage that’s built into the policy. If there’s a legitimate claim on it, insurance companies are there to pay for it,” George R. Reese of the H.D. Young Insurance Agency explained.

Reese said it was unlikely that homeowner’s rates would go up due to the surcharge.

Another New Jersey town, Cape May, is considering charging $8 dollars per mile for ambulance response, billing residents directly. It could increase a $500 dollar ride to the hospital to $600.

Reported By: Cydney Long, CBS 3

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