Monday, April 29, 2013

Letter to the Editor: Please Pass South Fire Budget

Editor's note: All letters to the Insider are printed as a courtesy to readers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Insider.  We want to hear from you! Please submit thank you!
A letter by resident Dan Penney in opposition to the proposed budget was published previously and can be read here:
http://www.middletowninsider.com/2013/04/letter-to-editor-upcoming-south-fire.html
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 This week you ran a negative letter from Dan Penney regarding next Tuesday's South District Budget Vote.   Myself and the other four Fire Commissioners would hope that our position on the budget can be published before Tuesday.  Our statement is attached.  Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Any Questions, contact Commission Chairman David P.Gallitto or myself.

Statement by Members of the Board of Fire Commissioners – South Fire District
On Tuesday, April 30th, Voters in the South Fire District will be asked to approve the proposed $4,605,680 budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.  As the duly elected stewards of Middletown’s largest Fire District, we the members of the Board of Fire Commissioners would like to offer some facts before you vote.
The proposed budget carries no increase in taxes. The Tax Rate will remain at 3.648 mils.  Compared with other Fire Districts in the State that are staffed by career firefighters, that rate is low, very low. In fact, the mil rate for South District is more in line with the tax rates for districts that are all volunteer or a combination of volunteer and paid.
Within our own City of Middletown, the Middletown Fire District has a tax rate of 5.8 mils. West Haven, is another City with three Fire Districts. All are staffed by paid firefighters with a handful of volunteers. There the tax rates range from 7.55 to 8.63 mils.   The Thompsonville Fire District, a career department in the Town of Enfield has a mil rate of 6.6.  We believe our mil rate is a bargain in comparison.
We have heard criticism recently regarding the overtime portion of the current district budget being substantially over spent.  While that is true, the salary portion of the budget is being under spent.  This is due to several vacancies.  It takes time to seek and test applicants to fill those vacancies.  In the interim, shifts must be filled, yet we persevere in addressing this problem.
Public Safety organizations are unique in that shifts MUST be filled 24/7 regardless of the number of available employees.   South Fire District is staffed with a minimum of 1 Lieutenant and 5 firefighters, 24/7. It takes four platoons, each working 42 hours per week, to provide around the clock coverage. While this is substantially less than what would be considered adequate staffing for a district with the commercial, industrial and residential fire potential and the physical size of South District, we believe it is the best we can afford in this economy.
As a public safety agency, we cannot leave the department unstaffed.  The shifts must be covered, regardless of the amount of overtime that is required.  Fires or medical emergencies won’t wait for the next platoon to show up in 10 or 14 hours. Also, we cannot predict with any certainty, the number and severity of fires or serious emergencies that will be encountered in a given year.  This also generates overtime over which we have no control.
As the Board of Fire Commissioners, we believe we have presented a very tight and fiscally sound budget. Please know we encourage any resident of the District to ask questions of your commission and to participate to ensure a healthy, sound South Fire District.  We urge a YES vote on April 30th and thank you for your continued support of our District.  Voting is from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm at the firehouse on Randolph Rd.
David P. Gallitto,         David F. Darling            Edward J. Creem Jr.
William F. Gregorio Sr.        Mary A. Bartolotta

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