Written by Michael Scro, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 05 March 2014 00:00
When marching orders were given to the Village of Garden City’s various civil service divisions to cut expenses, the fire department complied to the tune of slightly more than a quarter million dollars. During a Tuesday evening village board meeting, Fire Chief William Castoro announced a proposed budget of personnel services of $2.3 million this year, a significant reduction from last year’s adopted budget of $2.6 million.
Castoro said the department is forecasting to spend $2.4 million this year, an estimated $49,000 decrease, due to two unexpected retirements this year, and the reason for a reduction in personnel services.
The fire department’s overtime budget last year was $189,969, which Castoro said the department plans to spend “all of that, but keeping it a little bit under—we’ve implemented changes in staffing while people are on vacation or out sick for the slower times of the fire department.” The proposed overtime budget for next year is $120,000—a $69,969 decrease.
Trustee Richard Silver questioned the overtime figured presented, saying, “with the proposed overtime budget being cut by more than one third, I struggle to see how its realistic to expect that seven or eight months into the year.”
Castoro said the department spent $14,236 last month on overtime, and explained how they’ve moved positions around as a cost savings measure.
“For our day-men positions, we can now fill them in at different locations, we’ll have two day-men that we didn’t have all these previous months and fill in when people are on vacation,” Castoro said.
The fire department has also changed its vacation policy, whereby starting in 2014, personnel decides their vacation time for the entire year. Previously, three people were allowed on vacation every week, and those were all filled overtime—that has now been reduced to two out per week.
Two day-men will fill in for those on vacation, and the department will not pay overtime for them.
Castoro said he feels the overtime budget will reduce by approximately $10,000 per month, however stated “its hard to predict and budget for those out sick or injured, but based on the vacations, sick time, personal time and the coverage we now have that we didn’t have these prior months, we feel we can achieve those savings.”
Deputy Mayor Nicholas Episcopla questioned Castoro on unused contract days off, stating that in 2013-13, $66k was spent, which he said was “well under” the $95k budget. Comparing those numbers to the last year’s $79k budget, Episcopla said “we’re down to about $38k in actual estimated expenses, but this year’s budget we’re budgeting $65k.”
Castoro said that per union contract, each fire fighter gets 96 hours of sick time, and should they not use those hours, they can be diverted to personal time.
“Fire fighters then have the option to get paid for their personal time at the end of the year, or they can bank it towards retirement,” Castoro said. “We basically survey them, and our numbers are budgeted to pay everyone.”
Upon questioning by Trustee Robert Bolebruch on the ordering of fire department items, Castoro said that “originally, we were asked to put in a $20,000 contingency in the budget for large items that break throughout the year, such as boilers and garage doors, and recently, we had to have a roof replaced.”
We had spent over $10,000 on garage doors. We actually put into the capital, put it’s not pertaining to repair. So we have a line item for maintenance of plant for large items,” Castoro added.
Castoro said the fire department estimates spending $44k this year on gas and diesel fuel, and looking to budget $49,750 for next year.
“Every year, its one of those categories that we tend to uncontrollably go over,” Castoro said. “We seem to always have to transfer money to and under-budget, so we’re trying to correct that this year.”
On fire department vehicle repairs, Castoro said they have begun outsourcing to a private company instead of utilizing Garden City’s Public Works, saying, “the fire truck is very technical,” explaining that computer service work is needed. Public works still handles small level repairs for the fire department vehicles.
According to Trustee Donnelly, $2,000 was previously allocated to public works on a monthly basis.
New fire department trucks have a five-year bumper-to-bumper warranty, where previous trucks had a one-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Castoro mentioned that the fire department keeps their vehicles for “a very long time,” stating that all fire engines are at least 20 years, and ladder trucks are 25 years older or more.
“The downside to that is that as the fleet ages, we spend a lot of money on maintenance,” Castoro said.