Fire department budget chopped $100K

In this Feb. 2, 2015, file photo, a fire truck sits outside the Brookdale Arms apartment complex on Brookdale Avenue. (Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL – Instead of chopping actual positions, the city’s budget committee looked instead to chop dollars not spent from the Cornwall Fire Department budget.

The budget committee agreed Monday to support Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy’s move to cut $100,000 in wages and benefits.

“This is simply removing money we have not spent (since the four firefighting positions have not been filled since Jan. 1),” O’Shaughnessy said.

“It’s a very smart motion by the mayor…very pragmatic,” Coun. Brock Frost said.

CFO Maureen Adams says the cost of overtime for the entire department is about $381,000 while the cost of filling four firefighting position is $300,000. “There’s a savings there (of filling the positions) of $81,000,” Adams said.

Adams says there’s also been some budget cushion as the four firefighting positions haven’t been filled and nearly a quarter of the year has already passed.

As of the end of 2014, 99.7 per cent of the fire department’s budget had been spent, which included all part time and full time hours, according to the city.

Coun. Mark MacDonald asked whether cutting the $100,000 would but the city in a legal position.

“We’ve been without the firefighters for over a year,” Fire Chief Richard McCullough said, suggesting a couple of more months until the city considers hiring four firefighters would not make much of a difference.

Budget chairwoman Bernadette Clement says it’s “not an answer to all our sustainability issues…it’s just a quick fix,” saying the $100,000 will likely be back in the budget in 2016.

With all the changes, the overall tax increase now stands at 2.57 per cent or an extra $58 a year on a $160,000 residential property.

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