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Chiefs denied use of rainy-day money

Elaine Thompson
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MARLBORO- Instead of tapping the dwindling rainy day fund, the fire and police chiefs have been directed to find money in their current budgets to cover costs associated with union contract settlements.

Councilors, during a meeting of the Finance Committee last night, said the Stabilization Fund is only to be used for emergencies, not for operational expenses. They noted the city is expecting the same reduced level of state aid as well as about $1.5 million in salary increases next year.

Councilor-at-Large Michael Ossing, new chairman of the Finance Committee, said, "We need to show good faith that we're not going to increase the budget."

Police Chief Mark Leonard only has to find $100 in his budget to fund a portion of the command officers union contract. But Fire Chief John Kyle - already faced with a deficit in his vehicle maintenance and sick leave buyback accounts - will have to come up with $10,145.

The city is expecting about $4 million in free cash this fiscal year, but officials hope to put most of that into the Stabilization Fund. The fund balance has dwindled to about $41,000.

"Where the hell do you think the money is going to come from?" asked Council President Arthur Vigeant. "Out of which checkbook would you like for us to write the check? We have $41,000 in the stabilization fund for the whole city."

Chief Kyle said he does not have an extra $10,000 in his operational budget. The money would have to come from salary accounts, he said.

The recently settled three-year contracts for police and fire provide a 1 percent salary increase on June 30, followed by a 2 percent increase July 1, and an additional 2 percent hike in pay July 1, 2005. Both contracts include an increase in the clothing allowance and the professional fees. Firefighters will get an increase in overtime meal allowances.

The chief said he has already had to transfer $10,000 to the vehicle maintenance budget. He said the $40,000 annual allotment is usually not enough to cover the upkeep of Fire Department vehicles. The department's sick leave buyback account also has a $69,000 deficit because retirees were covered.
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