The Neosho Fire Department should see no decreases in personnel in the coming fiscal year, despite the end of the federal grant that has been funding a significant portion of the department's salaries since 2011.
Due to the recent expiration of the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate and Emergency Response) grant, the city's draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year reflects an approximate $300,000 increase in fire salaries coming from the fire sales tax fund.
The council reviewed the proposed budget Tuesday evening, in the first of five work sessions scheduled to be held through the end of August.
Council is expected to vote on a final budget in September, and it will go into effect at the beginning of the city's new fiscal year Oct. 1.
The Neosho Fire Department lost nine firefighters in 2010, during the city's financial crisis, though those positions were brought back in early 2011 with the help of the federal grant.
As of June 30, the SAFER grant had funded nearly $300,000 in salaries in the current fiscal year, while it provided about $370,000 in the prior fiscal year.
"Those are now going to be all out of the fire sales tax fund," said City Manager Troy Royer.
While the overall city cost of fire salaries has increased with the expiration of the grant, the individual salaries have remained the same. The firefighters, similar to all city employees paid out of the general fund, with the exception of police, are not set to receive pay raises in the coming fiscal year.
Mayor Richard Davidson said Tuesday evening that the city adjusted salaries last year to better fall in line with how area cities were compensating for similar positions, though the police department's salaries were so far behind that the raises had to be spread out over two years. (See Wednesday, July 31 edition for more on the proposed police department budget.)
The fire department is funded out of the fire sales tax fund, which is estimated to bring in $635,750 in revenue in fiscal year 2014.
However, the department's projected expenses far exceed that amount, with expenses estimated at $1.6 million.
Royer said that difference would be made up in a planned transfer from the city's general fund, in the amount of $1,038,166.
That amount is $112,692 more than was budgeted to be transferred from the general fund to the fire fund in the current fiscal year.
Also among the fire department's revenue is $125,000 from the Neosho Area Fire Protection District.
Council members commented on the city's relationship with the Fire Protection District, and Mike Eads, Neosho Fire Chief, noted that the fire district provides the city's fire department with brush trucks and tanker trucks.
"We use more district equipment inside the city than we do city equipment outside the city," Eads said. "We don't have any tankers, we don't have any brush trucks. We use their brush trucks a lot inside the city. There's a rescue truck at each station, one's owned by the city, one's owned by the district."
Page 2 of 2 - Royer also noted that the fire district provided the city's firefighters with approximately $60,000 worth of needed equipment in the current fiscal year.
The city council will pick up with the proposed street sales tax budget in a work session scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6.
The session will be held in city hall council chambers, prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting set for 7 p.m.