Janesville55.4°

Fire budget could go down

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Stacy Vogel
October 5, 2008
— After a significant budget increase in 2008, the Milton Joint Fire Department might cut its budget in 2009.

Chief Loren Lippincott’s proposed 2009 budget includes a 9.9 percent drop in expenses. He and the fire commission have not yet calculated expected revenue, he said.


The big difference comes in capital expenses, Lippincott said. Last year, the fire department made a final payment of $89,000 for a new engine. Other expenses brought the capital expense account to $154,000.


Those expenses, coupled with suggestions from a citizen task force, caused Lippincott to propose a 46 percent budget increase last fall. The commission eventually reduced the increase to 21 percent.


The capital expenses Lippincott is proposing for 2009 make up less than half of the 2008 capital expense budget.


One new expense in the 2009 proposal is $25,000 for a vehicle replacement fund. Lippincott proposed the fund last fall, but it was cut in favor of other cost increases, including a 3.5 percent wage increase for fire calls and training.


Sue Gavigan, fire commission chairwoman, said she thinks the replacement fund will pass this year, especially after a consultant study from Virchow Krause recommended it.


The report says a vehicle replacement fund will help the department avoid interest payments and reduce borrowing.


“We have to do it because we have to keep the fire department top-notch,” Gavigan said.


The fire commission will not officially accept the Virchow Krause report until its meeting Wednesday, Lippincott said. Some other consultant suggestions not included in the 2009 budget include:


-- On-call payment. The report suggests paying a stipend, perhaps $1 an hour, to out-of-town firefighters while they’re on call. Firefighters who live outside the city or town of Milton are required to stay at the station during on-call shifts, typically one weekend a month.


Last fall, Lippincott proposed paying $1 an hour to all firefighters for on-call shifts, but it was cut from the final budget. Lippincott did not include on-call pay in his 2009 proposal.


A fire commission member brought up the idea of on-call pay at the last meeting, but the commission hasn’t really discussed it yet, Gavigan said.


-- Fire station study. The Virchow Krause report recommends the commission hire an architectural firm to study options for the Milton Fire Station, which it said was inadequate to firefighters’ needs.


But Gavigan doesn’t think the department is ready to take that step in the coming year, she said.


“I don’t think we have time,” she said. “I think we’ll probably start looking into (options for the fire station) once this budget is passed.”


The fire commission will discuss and possibly pass the budget at its meeting Wednesday, Gavigan said.


A look at the proposed 2009 budget for the Milton Joint Fire Department:

The commission will discuss and possibly pass the budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Milton Town Hall, 23 First St.


Total budget

Next year $586,000


This year $650,000


Decrease 9.9%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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