Fire commissioners hope this year's inflation-free budget will be agreeable enough to allow one department to add a new command truck, said officials at the Fire Commission's December 10 meeting at Newtown Hook and Ladder.
Budget committee chairman Michael Burton presented commissioners from Newtown's five departments with a 2013-2014 budget that he said would hopefully remain stable, while accounting for increased expenses for personnel and the command truck.
"Our goal this year was to present a zero-increase budget to the town," Burton told the board before announcing budget specifics. "We tried that last year -- didn't work out so well."
Burton said the 2013-2014 budget, which the board approved after about an hour of discussion, clocked in at $1,215,037 -- "not one dollar," in his words, over last year's budget. The Dodgingtown Fire Company is requesting the new $29,000 truck, which Dodgingtown commissioner Ernie Descheneaux says would be funded by forfeiting the department's planned insurance reimbursements. After last year's first proposal -- which requested three additional cars -- Burton says the commission will move more cautiously.
"With a request such as a command car, don't go in over budget. If you're in over one dollar, the command car's gonna get cut," Burton warned the commission.
Burton listed the challenges facing the commission, including an increased $3,000 toward benefits for personnel in the Fire Marshal's office, and bringing additional hydrants online on Route 25 and Glen Road, that weren't in the original budget. Cuts came for items like two departments' response improvement programs, and hoped-for additional training and supplies for firefighters. Funds for items like radios, pagers and other supplies were also reduced, said Burton.
Commission chair Rob Manna praised the budget's "creativity" in cutting costs while allowing space for new expenses.
"It's hard to cut every line item," he said. "We maintain a fleet of 33 trucks and six houses worth of equipment, and we're responsible for the financial operation of the fire marshal's office."
As the budget readies to move to First Selectman Pat Llodra on its way to the Legislative Council next year, Manna and Burton both said they're ready for scrutiny.
"They're dissecting these budgets pretty thoroughly now, so we've gotta be able to defend whatever we put on this list," Manna told the commission.
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