Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Our Fire Companies — No Reinstatement of Their Budget Cut!

Tonight’s Board of Supervisor meeting tested my faith in our local government. The audience witnessed our supervisors heap accolades on our firefighters, praise their saving of a handicapped, wheel-chair bound resident in Chesterbrook on Thanksgiving Day, and then watched as the firehouse representatives groveled to have their 5% Tredyffrin Township 2010 budget cut reinstituted. How is it possible that in one meeting, our supervisors can extol the virtues of our volunteer firefighters and their life-risking efforts and at the same time (some of the supervisors) can vote to take away township support? And yes, the supervisors can vote to leave the annual fireworks in the budget (I think that budget line item was $20K). I am all about the 4th of July and fireworks, but does this seem an equitable trade?

Let’s remember tonight’s meeting when some of these individuals take to the campaign trail and speak of their emergency services support.

As for the BAWG report and the St. Davids Golf Club’s $50K cash offer — I think I better sleep on it before I write how I feel about that part of tonight’s experience. I have to remind myself that I will take the higher road and not follow the example of other’s bad manners.

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  1. For clarification purposes, the vote to reinstate the fire company cut back in to the 2010 budget was a split 3-3 vote (Bob Lamina was absent).

    The vote to reinstate the fire company budget cut was as follows:
    Warren Kampf – Nay
    John Shimrak – Nay
    Paul Olsen – Nay
    Judy DiFilippo – Aye
    John P. DiBuonaventuro – Aye
    Mark DiFeliciantonio – Aye

    The vote did not carry so the fire department cut remained in the budget.

    Curious to me, was moments later there was a vote to accept the draft budget and that vote carried 4-2. (Remembering that the budget included the fire department cut.)

    The vote to accept the draft budget was as follows:
    Warren Kampf – Aye
    John Shimrak – Aye
    Paul Olson – Aye
    Judy DiFilippo – Aye
    John P. DiBuonaventuro – Nay
    Mark DiFeliciantonio – Nay

    The 2010 draft budget includes the cut to the volunteer fire departments.

    1. While I certainly agree with the praise of our volunteer fire companies, these organizations clearly have the financial resources to absorb a very small reduction in the Township’s support. A look at their most recent 990 Federal filings reveals that as of 12/31/2007, Paoli Fire Company had $1,678,000+ in CASH and less than $100,000 in debt – Berwyn Fire/Relief had $1,779,000+ in CASH and $300,000 in debt.

      1. Offering further local fire department information —

        Major Fire House Projects/Purchases in 2010

        Berwyn – New Ladder Truck $950,000 and paying off 2 Engines that cost a combined $800,000

        Radnor – New Ladder Truck $825,000

        Paoli – Major Upgrades to Fire Station $1 million+

        Relief $ Facts

        Berwyn will use 300K-500K to help purchase new $1 million ladder truck in 2010. In the past couple years Berwyn has used this funding to assist in purchases of other fire apparatus.

        All firefighting gear and safety equipment is primarily purchased with this funding for Berwyn, Paoli, and Radnor.

        There are restrictions on what this money can be spent on by the State. This money can’t be used for anything related to Ambulance service (ie. revenue generating). Only Volunteer Fire Companies are eligible for these funds. If you aren’t in compliance (ie. pass the audit) you don’t get money and you will be fined.

        Every Fire Department in the Commonwealth is audited annually by the State Auditors Office. Berwyn, Paoli, and Radnor passed with flying colors in 2008.

        In 2010 Relief $, which Tredyffrin and Easttown have no direct control over, will be cut by 10 % statewide. Largest cut in 20 years.

      2. Where is the outrage on behalf of the laid-off Township employees who lost their livelihood? Of the non-union employees that took a pay cut when their longevity bonuses were summarily eliminated? Of the library customers who have to travel or postpone their visit when their local library is closed? Of the residents subject to more flooding because of less clearing of storm drains? Of the kids who earned a little cash with now-eliminated summer jobs? Of the seniors who depend on Township contributions to Surrey Services?

        That’s right, it’s nowhere, because (as we heard from Mimi last night) residents are busy doing the only thing they can to cut back local expenses in the midst of a recession – they are appealing their property assessments. That tells you how a tax increase would be received.

        What makes the fire departments a special case?

        Well, we don’t really know. ‘Mike in Berwyn’ has done heroic work to find their Form 990s from 12/31/07. That data is certainly noteworthy, but may not be sufficient, though: the cash might be a seasonal high because contributions come in ahead of expenses, and anyway the data is two years old. 2010 YTD to date P&L numbers were given to the BOS last night. I don’t have a hand out, so I can’t recall the numbers with any precision, but it seemed that both companies are running a monthly surplus more than equal to the proposed annual $21,000 reduction in the Township contribution.

        I’m not a great fan of the Republican leadership, but this time I applaud Warren, Paul and John for their political courage in standing up to the emotional appeals and to a motion from JD that unabashedly stumps for money for his own organization.

        (BTW: It’s lucky that the police patrol cars could still get them to that Chesterbrook resident first, because there’s no budget for new vehicles on 2010.)

      3. Ray,
        If you can’t distinguish reduced library hours from fire and ambulance services, I’m not sure I can help you.

  2. That is a snapshot from December of 2007. This leaves out a lot of details. By way of example, the purchase of apparatus to make much needed replacements has increased debt. The upcoming replacement of Berwyn’s 20 year old tower/ladder will run close to $1 million. The township is asked to contribute less than 1/4 of the companies’ operating budget in order to receive a service valued at somewhere between $8-13 million dollars. A majority of the “support” in the township budget goes to paying for hydrants and is “pass-through” money which comes from the state relief association and MUST BY LAW be distributed to the companies. That is a great ROI if I’ve ever seen one. There is a vested interest in the township (if for nothing else a financial interest) in maintaining this level of support as other cuts (such as to state relief funding) have already been realized. Please do not hesitate to contact your fire company for more details as they have always been open and honest through this process.

  3. Anonymous provides interesting additional information about the fire companies projects/purchases. Can someone direct me to the source of this information?

  4. This ‘information’ has been discussed at Board of Supervisor meetings in Tredyffrin, the BAWG Saturday Workshop/Report, and some of the information (I found) can be seen on the local fire company websites. It is helpful to have more then a 990 form to draw conclusions from.

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