Funds for VFDs may be reduced

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A 39 percent funding cut is proposed by the Marshall County Budget Committee for volunteer fire departments, according to the chairman of the county's Emergency Management Agency Committee.

While emphasizing that the reduction is only a recommendation, Commissioner Seth Warf, chairman of the EMA Committee, explained on Friday there are various factors that complicate the situation - more than just a decline in county revenue because of the economy.

Budget Committee Chairman Mickey King on Monday said, "We just started cutting every expenditure. What we were trying to do was save somebody's job in the county."

Pay rate cuts and possibly layoffs have been discussed as options for the county, given the difference between operating costs of the government and the revenue that's been coming in from sales and property taxes.

Restrictions on spending "might mean four jobs," King said. "It depends on whether we look at full-time or part-time help."

Budget reductions have been requested by commissioners and among those responding has been the County Clerk.

"I made my four-percent cut," said County Clerk Daphne Fagan who has told a part-time employee that she must be laid off. "She's known since April."

Marshall County's Emergency Management Agency was funded at $481,861 for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The Budget Committee is recommending a reduction of $109,943, thereby proposing EMA funding at $371,658 for the fiscal year starting July 1.

"That looks to be a proposed cut of 22.83," Warf said, of the reduction to the EMA budget. Figures from Warf show budget committeemen recommending a reduction in funding to volunteer fire departments of nearly 39 percent.

Warf's committee has faced other issues. Two fire departments have fire halls close to each other and EMA committeemen voted on Thursday to give two departments more time to coordinate services.

"We've had complaints about the response time," Warf said, recalling discussion from an April 20 committee meeting and the proximity of the Cornersville Fire Department and the South Marshall Fire Hall. "Our recommendation was that we would give them a year to regroup, reorganize, or do whatever they have to do. They understood that they had some problems that they had to work on."

Communications between the departments and staffing issues were discussed at length during the April 20 meeting when South Marshall VFD Secretary Eva Williams reported her records regarding dispatch logs. The need for volunteers was also considered.

"We felt like we needed to drive a stake in the ground, see where they are and come back in a year and see that they are way ahead," Warf said. "The committee would like to see an improvement."

As for the Budget Committee's recommendation, King said, "We didn't discuss the other issue," regarding fire department performance.

Still, Warf said, "The main cut they are suggesting is what the commission pays the rural fire departments. The county paid $134,130 to the rural fire departments during this fiscal year 2009-10 that's coming to an end June 30.

"What they are proposing to pay is $82,180," Warf said. "They are wanting to propose a 38.73 percent cut in what he county would be paying to the fire departments."

Fire departments are paid from the money appropriated to the EMA Department.

So, while there's an interest in cooperation between South Marshall and Cornersville fire departments, Warf said the EMA Committee also unanimously voted to recommend that a fire hall for the new Caney Springs Fire Department be considered when the County Commission meets on June 28.

"It's very easy to see that the Caney Springs Fire Department would be very important because in the last 10 years that's where the most growth has been," Warf said.

As for the effect on the EMA, department Director Bob Hopkins said, "The county's in trouble and they need our help to get them out."