Despite cuts, budget up 21 percent
The Milton Joint Fire Commission cut more than half of a proposed increase from its 2008 budget Wednesday, but that still left a 21 percent increase over this year’s budget.
The commission approved $650,000 in 2008 expenses, including fire, EMS and capital expenditures, up from a 2007 budget of $538,000.
Commission approval came after nearly two hours of negotiating with each other, with Fire Chief Loren Lippincott and with firefighters, who gathered in the audience to show support for proposed pay and equipment increases.
Lippincott had proposed a 46 percent increase in spending but admitted the increase probably would require a referendum. He’s confident the city and town of Milton can fund the budget approved Wednesday without going to referendum, he said.
The city and town of Milton each pay 50 percent of the fire department budget. The department contracts with all or parts of the towns of Harmony, Johnstown, Kosh-konong and Lima to provide services there.
Several of Lippincott’s proposed increases reflected recommendations from a task force created to study the future of the department, including increased pay for firefighters and the creation of an equipment replacement fund.
He also proposed $20,000 to expand the station’s sleeping quarters and bring them up to code.
The commission decided to fund part of the pay increase for firefighters, approving a 3.5 percent wage increase for time spent on calls and training but cutting a proposed $1-an-hour payment for on-call time.
The firefighters themselves suggested the compromise after discussing it during a break in the meeting. The agreement cut $91,000 from fire and EMS expenses.
Commissioners also cut $25,000 Lippincott had requested to start an equipment replacement fund. They considered cutting the $20,000 to renovate the sleeping quarters, but Lippincott argued the quarters are necessary for firefighters who live out of town.
“The remodel of this probably should have been done five or six years ago,” he said.
Lippincott said he would have trouble telling residents they violate codes when his own station does, too.
Commissioners didn’t touch the biggest capital expense, a remaining $89,000 payment on engine 135. But they did cut repairs to another engine from $47,000 to $29,000.
Lippincott projected $274,000 in revenue for the department in 2008, including $6,000 for an ambulance replacement fund collected from ambulance run fees.
That leaves $382,000 for the city and town to fund for the 2008 budget.
Lippincott said he wasn’t happy the firefighters had to give up on-call pay, but he understands the commission had a tough job to do.
“It’s a workable budget,” he said. “I have a vested interest in protecting the municipality and the people who work here.”