By Bill Robinson
Richmond is poised to add three firefighters to the fire department in the coming year.
With all five members present Tuesday for a budget work session, past disagreements on fire department staffing appeared to have been buried.
However, two other proposals advocated by first-term commissioners Laura King and Jim Newby-- a year-end longevity bonus and reopening of the fire station in the industrial park off Duncannon Lane -- appear to have been dropped.
Adding three firefighters will bring the city’s force to 60. The fire department also will have five other employees, including the chief, assistant chief, a fire marshal, mechanic and an administrative assistant. All but the administrative assistant are certified firefighters and can be called upon for emergencies.
A firefighter’s salary and benefits cost the city about $65,000, according to finance director Sharon Cain. And, the fire department’s budget was increased by $195,000 to reflect that.
However, the proposed overall city budget will be going up by only $9,300.
To offset the fire department increase, the parks and recreation capital outlay budget will be reduced by $100,000 to $150,000. Also, the uniform allowance that firefighters and police officers would have received under the proposed budget’s first draft was abandoned. That will save the city another another $110,000, Cain said. The $34,300 difference between the $195,000 additional expense and the $210,000 in savings was distributed in minor adjustments to other departmental budgets.
There was little discussion of the changes in the meeting that lasted about an hour and 40 minutes.
First reading of the budget ordinance is scheduled for June 25.
City Manager Jimmy Howard said after the meeting he would like a planned special session for second reading of the ordinance before the fiscal year ends June 30. Previously, he said the meeting had been tentatively set for July 2, more than 24 hours after the fiscal year begins.
The topic which took up the most discussion was whether the 2-percent cost-of-living raise called for in the budget would apply to entry-level base pay. The consensus was it would not.
New employees must complete their 12-month probationary period before receiving the pay hike.
Howard said the city expects to end the year with a $437,000 surplus. That will bring the city’s reserve or “rainy day fund” to about $4.8 million, or about 20 percent of annual expenses. Such a reserve is considered standard for local governments, he said.
Revenue for the coming year was estimated conservatively, both Howard and Cain said. Even with Eastern Kentucky University, the city’s largest source of payroll tax revenue expecting to reduce its workforce by about 119 people, payroll tax receipts are still expected to grow by $586,500.
For the past five years, payroll tax revenue has grown by about 1.5 percent, Cain said.
Insurance tax revenue is forecast to grow $375,000.
Overall, expenses are expected to rise by 5.3 percent.
Among the uncontrollable expenses that increase are unemployment compensation and workers compensation, Cain said.
The new budget also sets aside $278,000 for the storm-water project fund and another $40,000 in funds for future police car purchases.
Comparing departmental budgets for the current and coming years is difficult, because unlike the current budget the new financial plan assigns capital outlays by department, officals said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at email@example.com or at 624-6690.