By Brenden West
The city of Clinton ran into two road blocks Monday when examining the police, fire and ambulance budgets. The expense spreadsheets demonstrated that personnel expenses are so air tight that the loss of one job in the fire department would actually cost Clinton more.
Fire Chief Mike Brown told city leaders during the third of five scheduled budget hearings that his department has received state grants for maintaining a public safety officer. Clinton fire currently employs 45 people, several of whom double for the emergency medical service (EMS) on ambulance calls. A report prepared by finance director Anita Dalton factored in a $450,000 slash to the general fund budget, which would decrease the fire and ambulance budget by roughly $128,000.
Brown said the city received grants with the stipulation that fire staff would never diminish below that level.
"One of the caveats of the grant is you have to maintain your staff as is or you lose your grant," Brown said. "We'd give back about $150,000. So out of a savings of $128,000 we'd actually be losing money."
Right now, Brown's fire budget proposal for FY 2015 is $4.496 million - roughly $64,000 higher than last year's net total. However, he's also projecting $453,285 revenues for ambulance services. That figure is also more than FY 2014.
But if Clinton were to repay the grants, Brown said the cost would bring the city's savings back down into the red. With a surplus, he added, he hopes to replace outdated vehicles in his departments.
Even without major staff reductions, Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich said the city's proposed property tax levy - tentatively slated at $16.629 (per $1,000 assessed property value) is lower than FY 2014's $16.73 rate. That despite a 0.5 percent wage bump for city staff.
"Even with wage increases we still have a lower asking than last year," Vulich said.
The city adjourned without agreeing to cuts for either police or fire. The next budget session is scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 10.