Jean Perry, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard approved some Fiscal Year 2022 budgets, including Fire and Police, after brief presentations during a 3/30 morning meeting, and pending some Cost of Living increases that might change totals.
Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher presented his $1,073,774 FY22 budget, which he said was just about as level-funded as possible, aside from standard salary increases and a modest increase of $4,000 to activate an assessment center. FY21 was $1,073,774.
The objective of the center is to provide a means of choosing officer ranks and, in this case, specifically a new fire captain, who will prepare to take over the role of fire chief as Chief Gallagher prepares for his retirement in the next few years. Chief Gallagher said this would be a proactive approach, offering him the chance to mentor a potential candidate.
Selectboard Chairperson Kevin Gaspar noted a significant drop in the Fire Department’s overtime salary line item for FY22, which the chief said is mainly due to having established another full-time position.
However, as for the FY21 overtime budget, he said: “We blew it apart this year.”
He pointed out a significant deficit in that line item because the department went several months with one full-time vacancy.
Any further strain on the overtime budget should be minimal now that the department is fully staffed.
“Overtime, as you know, is always ‘nailing Jell-O to the wall,’” said Chief Gallagher, but added he is confident that, come the close of FY21, he should have a solid understanding of what the department will need for next year, barring any unforeseen illness or injury.
The ambulance service revenue did take a noticeable hit during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, when for one month, “Routine calls disappeared,” said Chief Gallagher.
He said departments across the region also experienced it, and he anticipates call volumes will level-out ahead of this upcoming fiscal year.
Police Chief Christopher Richmond presented his $1,510,019 FY22 budget, which is level-funded, except for contractual salary and longevity increases and the restoration of funding for a second police cruiser that was removed from FY21 to help the chief reduce his overall budget by 5% as requested last year. He said the preliminary FY22 budget he submitted in December reflected a $90,000 placeholder for purchasing cruisers, which had to be brought up to $99,400.
If the Town does move ahead with two new cruisers, Chief Richmond said he could eliminate the $4,000 increase to the vehicle maintenance line item.
Building Inspector James Marot noted that the Green Communities municipal reimbursement rate for the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles has increased. Now, the Town could receive $15,000 in funding from the state per hybrid vehicle, something Mr. Marot asked the Selectboard to consider when buying new cruisers.
The board liked the idea, but Chief Richmond said he was not prepared at this time to move in that direction with his upcoming cruiser purchases; however, he said he is open to exploring the option.
The Selectboard will also explore whether federal COVID-19 funding could be spent on at least one of the new cruisers.
As for overtime, the FY21 budget is nearly fully expended, and Chief Richmond said he is still waiting on $80,000 in funding to be transferred to the budget from reimbursement grants. He said he is “cautiously optimistic’ that the FY21 overtime budget will last throughout June, but June is often one of the department’s heaviest overtime use months.
The board also approved the chief’s request to appoint Alyssa Mello to fill the vacant dispatcher position. The board approved her salary at a step-3 pay rate.
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