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Fire Commission Approves 'Zero-Increase Budget' Proposal

Hopes include a new command truck for Dodgingtown; cuts include some response improvement programs and additional training.

 

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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Paul Alexander December 11, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Bravo and congratulations for "Getting" the current fiscal reality. Now let's see if the Board of Police Commissioners is equally visionary or if they cite their padded response rates as justification for a budget increase.
Len Destin December 11, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I agree - great to see a plan for no increase. What's troubling is that amount is EXACTLY the same as this year's budget which means their not really budgeting to a level of need, just to a number / ceiling.
Paul Alexander December 11, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Baby steps. In the public sector world a zero increase budget is a HUGE win for taxpayers. The time will come to demand decreasing budgets. One step at a time. The tax payers need to be careful not to make the same mistake the tax takers have made…overreaching.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com December 11, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Good for taxpayers maybe not so good if its your house on fire. "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"
kash White December 12, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Bruce, With 33 fire engines I would think that my house will be just firne

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