In 2016 the five commissioners of the newly formed Garrison Fire District voted to increase the fire company budget by 27 percent, or about $168,000, over the previous budget approved by the Philipstown Town Board.
The budget included a payment by the fire district to the fire company for $25,000 for rent, even though the district pays all expenses of running fire operations. During 2017 that budget resulted in a surplus of roughly $100,000. About half of that surplus was put into reserve and the other half was used to pay cash for a new chief’s truck. (We have three; the three other nearby fire companies each have two.)
For the 2018 budget, the 2017 level was continued, including the $25,000 for rent to the fire company, again resulting in a surplus projected to be about $100,000. Roughly half of this surplus was put into reserve, which now totals $95,000, and the other half was used to pay cash for an unequipped, 20-year-old, 106-foot ladder truck, long desired by the fire company.
For 2019, required apparatus lease payments will decline by about $75,000. Therefore, the anticipated surplus for 2019 would be the $100,000 experienced in each of the last two years plus the $75,000 reduction in lease payments, for a total of $175,000. Nevertheless, the commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve the budget (I cast the dissenting vote), again including $25,000 for rent, for a budget increase of 2 percent and continued additions to reserves. (To view the budget, see garrisonfd.org.)
This budget is a “top-down” budget, filling in the legally allowed budget with projects sufficient to maintain the budget at its current level. If allowed to continue, this top-down approach will be an even greater issue in a few years when the firehouse mortgage is retired.
I have argued in vain against this budget. The only way to control the budget and get a “bottom-up” process underway, based on a line-by-line analysis of needs, is to replace the current commissioners with new commissioners. Please get involved!
Stan Freilich, Garrison
Freilich is a fire district commissioner. Voters are not asked to approve the fire district budget, but the annual election for one of the five commissioners’ seats will be held Tuesday, Dec. 11, from 5 to 9 p.m. The incumbent, Linda Lomonaco, is running unopposed for a five-year term.