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Fredonia fire department defends budget proposals

FREDONIA – Fire department members had a chance to defend their 2015-16 budget proposal at the regular meeting of the Fredonia Village Board on Monday in Village Hall.

Lt. Randy Butts of the paid fire department justified his request to maintain the two new full-time hires and add two part-time positions with a prediction that the manpower will enable the department to transport more patients in its ambulance and be able to bill for the services.

The department made the transition to a billing service last year. January and February were the first two months when they fully billed for transporting patients to the hospital.

Butts supplied information that estimated reimbursement for ambulance calls was between $431 and $486 per call.

He said most of the revenue is from commercial insurance carriers. Residents of the fire district are not required to pay any co-pay charges to the fire department when they use the ambulance service.

Butts said the average monthly revenue is more than $14,000 for the ambulance service. There were 105 calls in January and February with a total 223 calls so far this year.

The total fire department budget request is $899,338 with a proposed $225,000 in revenue from the ambulance service if nine full-time and three part-time employees are on the payroll. He projected that the net budget would be $674,338 with that level of staffing.

According to the lieutenant, if staffing is reduced to six full-time firefighters and two part-time, the transports would not be able to continue because they require at least two employees. He said the net for reducing the staff to six would be $735,613. Mayor Steve Keefe proposed cutting the department by three full-time employees in his budget proposal that was presented last week.

The fire department also has about 120 volunteers.

The department also is requesting $250,000 to purchase a new tanker truck and some funds to repair the fire hall roof and furnace system.

Trustees said they are hoping to stay under the New York State property tax cap and will try to keep the tax increase to a minimum.

Another meeting with fire department members was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 6 to continue talks about the budget lines.