It’s $15,000 or bust.
That was the message that Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company President Brian Brooks had for members of the Whitehall Town Board during their Oct. 4 preliminary budget workshop.
“We are respectfully asking for an increase of $15,000 of funding from the town,” said Brooks. “We want to get to the point where we are able to keep the budget flowing and not have to worry about not being able to provide the services that you need.”
The proposed increase would raise the fire district tax levy from $74,000 to $89,000, which would equate to a 16-cent per-assessed $1,000 property value increase to the fire protection tax levy.
“I feel that it is pretty cheap fire protection,” said town Councilman Richard LaChapelle.
Brooks agreed, adding that the fire company was hoping to avoid negotiating the matter.
“I really do not want to take less,” said Brooks. “We have spent every bit of our savings and we have plans for the future of the fire company, but we can’t even think about them until we know that we can stay solvent.”
Brooks also said that, unlike companies around him, the Whitehall company was experiencing and upturn in membership.
“We are maybe the only company around who is actually seeing and increase in membership,” said Brooks. “We have new people coming in and we do not have the equipment they need. We have no gear to give them.”
Town Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon said that he wanted to keep the figure lower in the preliminary budget until he saw the current spending plan of the fire company.
“I’ll consider increasing the fire protection line by $5,000 until we take a look at their updated budget so we can have a preliminary budget set,” said Gordon.
“I do not have those numbers on me right now, but I will get them to you ASAP,” said Brooks. “But, I will not take only $5,000. We can’t sustain ourselves on that. You will put us at a point where we will have to start selling off trucks and you can go somewhere else for a fire contract. I cannot sign a contract with you that does not allow me to provide the services that I need to.”
“Don’t come in here threatening me and telling me what you are going to do,” said Gordon. “If that’s the case, then let’s leave it at zero until we see more on your finances.”
Other members of the board, however, agreed with Brooks’ proposed increase.
“Let’s go ahead and put the $15,000 in there,” said LaChapelle. “We all know that as of right now, it is not etched in stone as part of the preliminary budget. If we don’t like what we see, then we can change it.”
“We all know that they are hurting for money,” said Councilman David Hollister. “They are a separate entity from the town, so while it will affect the overall taxes, it does not affect the town general fund. I say that we put the $15,000 in there.”
Councilman came to an agreement to put the $15,000 in the preliminary budget, which was adopted as the preliminary budget at the end of the workshop.