NEWPORT — Town officials are pursuing financial assistance to hire more fire department personnel.
The Newport Town Council, with Councilman Danny Fornes absent, met for its regular meeting Nov. 12 in the town hall boardroom and online via Zoom. During the meeting, the council received a report from Town Manager Bryan Chadwick on the estimated revenue for the next fiscal year.
The council requested the report in order to determine if there will be enough revenue to support a proposal from the Newport Fire Department to hire additional full-time staff, thereby reducing the department’s reliance on part-time workers.
“We originally talked about five new positions,” Mr. Chadwick said. “We also figured (the cost) for just three firefighter paramedics. We would still need to have part-time people.”
According to staff, the total estimated revenue for next fiscal year is $3,566,180 for the general fund and $1,279,860 for the fire department fund. Estimated expenditures come to $3,319,050 for the general fund – meaning a net income of $247,130 – and $1,331,035 for the fire department fund, a net loss of $51,175. Mr. Chadwick said the loss is due to declining emergency medical service billings.
According to staff calculations, the net cost for five new positions would be $297,563. However, Mr. Chadwick said with six new full-time members – three basic firefighters and three firefighter paramedics – they would eliminate the need for part-time staff, allowing them to add the part-time budget to the rest of the fire department fund. This would result in a net cost of $161,730.
Councilman Mark Eadie was very eager to pursue funding to cover the cost of six new full-time firefighters.
“I’m joyful and super-excited to be in a position to run two busses,” he said, referring to the department’s ambulances. “We’ll have lower response times and better quality service. There are a number of ways to make up that $161,730.”
Councilman David Heath, meanwhile, was concerned about the possibility they might have to raise taxes if no other sources of revenue are available. He said a 3-cent property tax increase would be needed to cover the cost if no alternatives pan out.
“Before we agree to these new positions, we need to be prepare to cover those expenditures into the future,” Mr. Heath said.
Mr. Eadie remained eager to pursue hiring the additional staff, however. He said he was prepared to raise the property tax rate if necessary, though he indicated he would rather find a different source of funding.
“You can’t just keep taxing the people,” he said. (But) I want to err on the side of caution. The sooner we hire those three basic firefighter sand three paramedics, the sooner we can make this town safer.”
Mayor Dennis Barber directed Mr. Chadwick to schedule a meeting with Carteret County officials to request assistance.
“We’ve put a lot of money in the fire department to make sure everybody’s safe,” the mayor said.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.