Cumberland fire tax bills rise, as 11 injury claims inflate OT budget

Cumberland fire tax bills rise, as 11 injury claims inflate OT budget

Higher fire tax bills expected this week as a result

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland Fire District is exceeding its overtime budget by $448,174 as the end of the fiscal year approaches, and fire officials are blaming it on higher-than-expected claims from firefighters who were injured while on duty.

Responding to a Valley Breeze request for information on the claims that led to the injured on duty, or IOD, claims, Fire Chief Kenneth Finlay provided a list of 11 injury incidents, without naming firefighters. Injuries include several broken bones, pulled muscles, and a bad case of poison ivy.

The incidents are as follows:

• A member of the department missed a step on an apparatus and fell to the floor, injuring his back. Surgery was required.

• A member slipped on ice at a rescue call, hyperextending his shoulder.

• A member was exposed to poison ivy, which he was highly allergic to, requiring “confined treatment.”

• A member lifting a stretcher tore rotator cuff muscles, requiring surgery.

• A member slipped on ice, breaking his wrist and tearing rotator cuff muscles, requiring surgery.

• A member removing equipment from an apparatus had the equipment get stuck and tore rotator cuff muscles, requiring surgery.

• A member during training sustained a knee injury, leading to a lengthy rehab.

• A member at a fire slipped and received a hairline fracture, leading to a lengthy rehab.

• A member moving equipment damaged his shoulder, requiring multiple surgeries.

• A member at a rescue call pulled a back muscle during operations.

• And a member injured his back while attending to a patient.

Residents of Cumberland can expect a jump of 4 percent on their fire tax bills when they start receiving them this week, with bills showing maximum increases expected to begin going out by Friday, June 8.

The overall Cumberland Fire District budget, passed May 8, rose from $7.96 million in 2017-2018 to $8.42 million in 2018-2019.

The Cumberland Fire District runs independently of the town’s budget. Limited initial savings were predicted when multiple, local fire districts were merged into one entity in 2014, but the expected growth of those savings over time hasn’t materialized.

The tax rate in the 2018-2019 budget year is $1.986 per $1,000 assessed value, up from $1.919 in 2017-2018. The owner of a home valued at $250,000 pays $479.75 currently, and would pay $496.50, or an increase of $16.75.

“Taxes did go up to the maximum we could tax,” said Fire Board Chairwoman Cindy Ouellette.

The increase is not due to the district spending money carelessly, she said, but funding necessary costs, such as overtime.

“What we did was we funded the overtime budget at a much greater amount,” she said. “We have no control over IODs.”

The 2018-2019 budget nearly doubles the amount in the district’s overtime line item, from $575,941 to $1,055,014.

The district only has a limited amount of money, so avoiding potential overtime trouble in 2018-2019 by ramping up the budget was the wise move, said Ouellette.

The Breeze reported in April that excessive overtime costs were due to higher-than-expected instances of firefighters being injured on duty. At the time, Ouellette said some 10 or more firefighters out on IOD status this year, three or four of those for significant time, eliminated all chances for savings in the budget as overtime costs had jumped more than $300,000 over budget at that point.

The deteriorated financial condition of the fire district in the spring, leading to a decision to nix plans for a new Fire Station 2 on Mendon Road, prompted involvement by the Office of the Auditor General.

In the April Valley Breeze story, Ouellette suggested that a merged fire district in Cumberland may never lead to real savings, and cautioned other districts considering merging against doing it for the savings.

IOD claims have been an issue for the district each of the past two years, leading to the overtime budget exceeding the district’s cash flow and the need to issue tax anticipation notes, or short-term borrowing, in anticipation of money coming in at a later point.

After fire bills go out, fire officials project about $1.5 million will come in from fire taxpayers by the end of June.

Comments

NOT buying it . Oldest game in the book .

Commissioner Scullen addressed the Cumberland Town Council last night during the appointment of a new fire commissioner and talked about the management of the combined fire district and mentioned bankruptcy if the district could not get its house in order

From the article: "The Cumberland Fire District runs independently of the town’s budget. Limited initial savings were predicted when multiple, local fire districts were merged into one entity in 2014, but the expected growth of those savings over time hasn’t materialized."

“Taxes did go up to the maximum we could tax,” said Fire Board Chairwoman Cindy Ouellette.

The hoopla from all the politicians was that the merger would save the taxpayers money. It hasn't yet happened and this year we are now being taxed the maximum allowable by law.

I'm sorry the fire fighters are IOD but we were sold a bunch of lies by all those in power regarding the merger. Now the taxpayers are paying even more. You may thank State Representative Mia Ackerman and State Senator Ryan Pearson for introducing the merger legislation in the General Assembly.

Police budget is $4.4 million. Fire budget is $8.4 million. I know fire's equipment costs a little bit more than police, but something is very wrong here.

the only state where the people 'serve the government '

The merger has nothing to do with IOD . Some legit,accidents happen. This has been happening for years in fire departments threw out the state. Try it in private industry you would be on permanent vacation.

Things happen. You cannot blame the personal here. Well 90 percent of the time you can’t... Some of these injuries seemed to have happened at the place of call. Why can’t we go after the homeowners/car insurance coverage? I’m pretty sure if someone slips on my property they are coming after me. While this isn’t the case in all of the injuries I’ll bet it is at least more than half of them. Why do the taxpayers have to pay for it?

I bet if we request a copy of all the salary of the Fire Dept it will show gross abuse in OT and waste in management. All involved from the Fire Committee to Leadership needs to be investigated. This abuse will not stop. Next year they will raise it again.

IOD’s it seems will happen in the fire service because of the jobs that are performed. But, I thought this board told the taxpayers that they have an insurance policy for people who are out hurt. It just seems odd that there is an insurance policy yet we are still loosing money. The article goes onto to say they have no controls over IOD. While employees have rights so do the taxpayers. If businesses ran their companies like this they would all be bankrupt. The leaders of CFD should take a hard look at what is happening and not bury their heads in the sand. If you need a place to start just search the internet it has hundreds of suggestions

I was not going to comment on this, but, then I recieved my tax bill. This is unacceptable. way too much. Between the school department and now the fire department taxes are far too high. How much control does Town government have over this? There needs to be much more oversight and controls. Are firefighters on IOD monitored for progress to return? Are there studies to see how many firefighters we need to staff and how many each shift?
My ignorance here, but are the Commissioners elected or appointed? How long are the terms? Perhaps we need a change here. I also firmly believe that the Fire Department should not be separate but a part of town government with Mayor/Council oversight.
I want to stay in Cumberland in my impending retirement but fear spiraling taxes will prevent that.

Board board elections are every 2 years.

If Cumberland residence can cleanup the yards and make fire fighters jobs be more save