Six people sat on folding chairs in front of a long card table -- Luke Lyons, Joyce Alexander, Jim Bales, Erik Holter, Frank Valenti and Kathleen Holter. They are the fire commissioners.
Commissioners told the crowd they wanted to pass a $357,986 budget for 2011. However, they’d actually collect $3,000 fewer than that from taxpayers, owing to an overpayment from Town Hall in 2010 and some expected revenue.
A majority of the items on their list of appropriations for 2011 gives one a strong feeling of déjà vu. Many of the items repeat -- the same values appear for 2009, 2010 and 2011. A few have gone up modestly -- $2,000 for new equipment over this year, $1,500 more to take care of OSHA-mandated physicals for EMTs and firefighters, about $5,000 more for worker’s compensation.
Compared to a school district budget, Gardiner Fire District’s budget looks infinitesimally small. Looking at the Town of Gardiner’s planned spending of $2.79 million for next year, the fire district would represent only about 13 percent of that figure.
Treasurer Kathleen Holter explained to the citizenry where the expenses have gone up and why. In 2011, the district will spend more on training, travel, conventions and mileage.
“Most of our firefighters now have to travel further to get their training,” she said. Albany lawmakers cut down on the overall number of centers where firemen can train.
Equipment repairs also went up, because the Gardiner Fire Department is trying to get extra life out of an 18-year-old fire truck. It’s up $25,000 from 2010’s $25,000 equipment repair line.
Recently, for people living in New Paltz, fire districts have been something of a public curiosity. Despite the New Paltz Town Board’s failure to vote on creating a new fire district, reading about them in the paper has piqued interests.
David Strauss, of Gardiner, wanted to know what exactly the difference between a fire department and a fire district really was.
In Gardiner, the district owns the equipment and manages the finances of the firefighters. The department is the men and women who volunteer. However, unlike what almost happened in New Paltz, Gardiner has two fire districts operating within its borders.
Strauss, a member of the town’s Environmental Conservation Commission and a civic volunteer, was not the only familiar face in the crowd. Planning Board member Kathy Hudson and Library Board President Barbara Sides were also keeping an eye on fire finances.
In short, a good amount of people already interested in how local governments spend their money showed up to Oct. 20’s hearing, during which the Gardiner Fire Commission did vote to approve the $354,986 tax levy for 2011.
Shawangunk Fire District also protects part of Gardiner, and Gardiner taxpayers will likely pay $112,137 for that. Altogether with the Gardiner Fire District, the town will pay about $467,000 for fire protection.