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Hamburg firefighters ask for budget increases

Hamburg’s tentative budget would cut most requests from fire companies, but leaders of the nine Hamburg fire companies made their cases Monday night for increases.

Most were asking for a 2 percent increase, and in most cases, that was cut to 1 percent. Lake View volunteers asked for a 1 percent increase, and their request was cut to 0.7 percent. Fire Commissioner John Wicka said the fire company got a notice that its workers’ compensation payment was going up, and the upgrade to offering paramedic response to emergency calls also costs extra money.

“Last year we did not seek an increase,” he noted.

Big Tree Fire Chief Ed Hughes said his company is seeking $9,300, or 2 percent more than this year’s contract with the town, due to an increasing insurance premium and the purchase of gear. Other companies noted costs, except for fuel, keep rising, while they continue to raise money throughout the year.

Town Supervisor Steven Walters also told volunteers he does not know how a rumor started that the town wants Rural/Metro Medical Services to take over all ambulance service in the town.

“I can tell you unequivocally that this Town Board has never discussed taking ambulance services away from the fire companies and making Rural/Metro the primary,” Walters said.

One source told The Buffalo News that the subject came up when a fire company was meeting with the supervisor to discuss its budget request, which included extra money for an ambulance.

Also Monday night, the board held a hearing that will allow it to exceed the tax cap. Walters said a 33 percent increase in health insurance will probably make it necessary to exceed the cap, although the town is trying to lower the cost.

“The tax cap was enacted to make town governments more accountable and to live within their means, just like normal people do in their household budgets, small businesses and everything,” said Robert Frazier of Lakecrest Drive. “Why not just make the adjustments necessary in the budget and don’t exceed the cap?”