NEWPORT — Town officials may create five new position in the Newport Fire/EMS Department, if the revenue is there to sustain them.
The council met for a special meeting Thursday in the town hall boardroom on Howard Boulevard and online via Zoom. At the meeting, Town Manager Bryan Chadwick and Assistant Town Manager Teresa Fulk gave a report on the town’s finances, including a proposal to create five new, full-time positions – three firefighters and two paramedic-level emergency medical technicians – in the fire/EMS department.
After discussion, the council agreed to meet again at another special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the proposal further. The council requested revenue projections from staff to determine what funding may be available for these positions.
Mr. Chadwick said additional full-time staff is needed in the department due to the coronavirus pandemic. The department has been making extensive use of part-time positions, but with the pandemic, other municipalities’ fire departments have been restricting or prohibiting their staff from working part time for other agencies.
“This would put two more (full-time firefighters) at the station per day,” Mr. Chadwick said of the proposal. “We’d still have some part-time wages (budgeted) because we’d still have some part-time staff, but not as much.”
Mr. Chadwick said funding the five proposed positions for 12 months would cost about $426,563. Earlier in the financial report, he and Ms. Fulk said several revenue streams this fiscal year have seen an increase over the same period from fiscal year 2019-20.
“As of Tuesday, our ad valorem (revenue) is $276,901. That’s up 21 percent from last year,” Mr. Chadwick said.
Ms. Fulk, meanwhile, said the Carteret County Tax Office has been reporting a record year for occupancy tax revenue, as well. Other revenue streams seeing an increase include building permit fees, EMS billing and motor vehicle tax revenue.
While the council seemed to support hiring more emergency services staff, it also seemed reluctant to do so unless officials could be certain there would be enough sustained revenue to keep the positions funded. Councilman David Heath was particularly adamant about this. He said he wanted to see projections for revenue through the end of fiscal year 2020-21.
“We need to know how we’re going to fund this in future years,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Shinn seemed to agree.
“We need more staff,” he said, “but I agree with David, we don’t want to hire someone just to cut them loose at the end of the year. I just want to know what’s a reasonable expectation of what we might have to do next budget season.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.