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Operational costs for new addition impacting budget

25 percent increase being planned for

WILTON — The Wilton Fire Department budget is up from $100,876 in 2013 to a proposed $125,993, a 25-percent increase. A good portion of the increase is attributed to items, previously paid for through capital improvement funds, now being included in the department’s operating budget. More than half of the increase, however, is due to the expected uptick in costs to maintain the fire station, which is currently being added onto.

Over the next 20 years, the town of Wilton will be paying off a $935,000 bond to pay for the new addition to the fire station, as well as renovations to the existing structure. The addition comes with other increased operational costs — more than $10,000 worth — which the town will have to pay for through taxation as part of the department’s annual budget.

During a review of the proposed budget with the Select Board on Dec. 30, Fire Chief Ray Dick told the board that the 5,515-square-foot addition comes with increases in heating, lighting and janitorial costs to maintain it. Heating fuel expenses will cause the biggest potential increase, jumping from $4,000 to $11,200 annually, in order to pay for kerosene to run the heating units for the new addition. Dick told the board that estimate may be on the high side, but he will have a better idea of the actual costs of heating the addition after this year. The Fire Department also budgeted $500 more this year for electricity costs for the coming year.

Janitorial services are also going up, from $4,426 to $7,000, to account for the additional time cleaning the new space will take.

The other factor in the department’s proposed budget increase is a change in the way the budget is presented, said Dick. In the past, certain items that were previously paid for through capital expenses are now being included in the budget.

This year, the Budget Committee is attempting to better define what the town funds through capital expenses and capital reserves versus what is paid for through normal operating expenses. In a draft of definitions prepared by the Budget Committee this year a capital expense is considered a major, high-cost project or item that has a life of five or more years. The Budget Committee defined a high-cost expense as more than $7,500, and none of the items sought by the Fire Department qualify this year.

The Fire Department is asking for eight sets of gear, including four sets of turn out gear and four sets of brush fire gear, for a total of $8,200. The department will also be seeking to purchase six water rescue vests, for an additional $900, and four pagers for $1,300. All of these items are included in the proposed Fire Department budget.

Dick said the department expects some repairs will be needed to one of the engines, which is expected to cost $1,000, but that increase was more than offset in a $2,500 decrease in anticipated repairs to another of the department’s engines, which had repair work done last year.

The Fire Department will also be seeking a warrant article to add $40,460 to the capital improvement fund to replace the department’s rescue truck, which is currently in bad shape, Dick said.

The Fire Department’s budget will be reviewed by the Budget Committee, and revised, before it’s presented to voters as part of the town’s operating budget on Feb. 4. The Select Board will meet next on Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall. The Budget Committee will meet next on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Court Room.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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