By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(June 15, 2023) Berlin Volunteer Fire Company and EMS financial concerns had the Berlin mayor and Town Council scrambling for money Monday night, as EMS representatives made clear that they could only guarantee six months of service under the town’s proposed budget as proposed.
In the draft agreement from June 8, EMS budgeted $125,000 to provide four-person coverage, 24 hours a day, which included payroll, benefits, and other expenses to cover two new EMT positions.
Mayor Jack Tyndall noted that the 2023 budget only had $72,000 allocated to this request.
“Year after year, we are running on fumes, eventually the fumes will run out,” said the president of the Berlin Fire Company President David Fitzgerald.
During the discussion, Fire Chief RJ Rhode suggested that EMS would only sign a contract with Berlin until Dec. 30 without these additional funds.
With that suggestion on the table, the council got to work identifying ways to make up the difference.
A motion was passed to approve the FY 2023-24 budget with the following changes: The council increased tax revenue expectations by $500,000; cut $21K for a new IT server; cut police by $20K for car cameras; reduced the salary for a new position of deputy town administrator from 103,000 to $70,000 with a corresponding change in title; and added a $250 per town employee for-an-end-of-year payment. These changes allowed the town to cover the $72,000 shortfall for EMS. Or so they believed.
But after passage, town Finance Director Natalie Saleh told the council that their maneuvers that they actually ended up with an excess of $45K.
So, the council amended the motion unanimously to put back the costs of the IT server and the police car cameras.
With these amendments, the council passed the 2023-24 budget.
The total budget for 2023-24 is $11 million, which is $3 million more than 2022-23 FY budget.
Much of the difference is because of a state Department of Transportation grant of $1,160,878. Other sources, totaling 2,226,190, are a combination funds carried forward, reserve funding and grants, according to Saleh.