Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Letter to the Editor: Upcoming South Fire Budget Vote, CVH Burden Services Still Burden Taxpayers

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!

Editor's Note Update: As of today we have been informed by Dan Penney that he also submitted this letter to the Mess. The Mess ran it as a print editorial on Saturday, however, unlike the pro-budget editorials, have failed to also publish it on their online page. Coincidence?
To the editor: April 23,2013

The South Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners has scheduled voting on the 2013-2014 proposed budget for Tuesday, April 30,2013 from 6:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the South District Firehouse.

The current 2012-13 budget includes new spending of $650,000,an increase of some  16 %. The proposed budget,while appearing to be level,certainly suggest that the south district taxpayers were unnecessarily overtaxed with approval of the 2012-2013 budget.  

Not surprisingly and only after the south fire district fiscal administrator presented a comprehensive sound 2013-2014 budget did the commissioners act to effect changes that denied taxpayers possible savings.The final proposed budget contains expenses that could have easily been eliminated and/or reduced so as to provide much needed tax relief for the south district taxpayers,including homeowners and local businesses. 

Most alarming,the proposed budget includes an unprecedented pay increase of 50% for Commissioners ( 7708 Directors’ Compensation) who acted to pay themselves regardless of being elected to serve in such public service. District financial records also confirm that such payments are made even when meetings are missed thus demonstrating a sense of entitlement never before witnessed. In light of limited fiscal resources and in the true best interest of our firefighters and taxpayers this is clearly a budget line item that could have been eliminated. 

Overtime is also increasing ( 7603 Replacements/Call Backs) from $134,673 to $146,000. Most concerning, the current overtime spending is at $232,398 or $97,725 over budget as of March 31,2013. Such ongoing activity certainly brings into question the lack of management controls as well as effective stewardship. 

Another missed opportunity for significant savings is the most recent decision of the Board of Fire Commissioners to proceed with the recruitment of a Fire Chief.The public had called for this management position to be eliminated and such services retained via a simple memorandum of understanding with the City, at significant cost savings for both the City and South District taxpayers.

Additionally, south fire district support continues for CVH, a State facility where the burden of fire services expenses was shifted on the south district taxpayers when CVH initiated actions to reduce its longstanding fire services. 

Until such practices have been corrected and the resulting tax breaks extended to the south fire district taxpayers, I recommend a NO vote next Tuesday on the proposed 4.6 million 2013/ 2014 budget. 

Dan Penney
Middletown,CT 06457 

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