Services Presents 2013 Budget
Posted by Jean
Greaux on July 9, 2012 at 7:40 PM AST
Virgin Islands Fire Service officials presented their fiscal year 2013 budget today to the 29th Legislature, requesting more than $16 million to maintain firefighting, fire suppression, arson investigation and hazardous material capabilities.
Fire Service Director Steve Brow and senior fire officials told members of the Finance Committee that the Service has worked to reduce its costs significantly in recent years, and the requested 2013 budget would be enough to ensure first responders were properly equipped to carry out their mission.
Like other government agencies, the Fire Service “is being asked to function at its maximum with its drastically reduced budget,”
Director Brow said.
He requested the Legislature approve $16,163,516 to fund the Service's 2013 operations. Of that amount, 94 percent will pay
personnel costs, and the other six percent will pay contractually mandated costs including rent, utilities, communications, training and professional services.
Since 2007, the Fire Service has lost 51 staff members, mostly consisting of ranking officers. That manpower shortage resulted in greater overtime needs that offset personnel reduction savings. As a result of the manpower shortage and also personnel being called up in the National Guard reserves, overtime for fiscal year 2011 cost the Fire Service nearly $1.5 million—more than three times the amount allocated.
Since then, fire officials have reduced manning levels to decrease overtime expenditures.
:The manning levels at all stations have been reduced to bare minimum and a fire apparatus may be sidelined to meet the the safety and collective bargaining mandates. As a result we have seen a drastic decrease in overtime,”
the director said.
He listed the Fire Service's recent accomplishments, current challenges and major goals for the upcoming fiscal year, among them enhancing hazard response capabilities, maintaining and renovating critical infrastructure, and reorganizing its arson unit.
“The Virgin Islands Fire Service has made great strides in improving the agency and continues to work diligently to perform our mission, even in these harsh economic times,”
“I am proud of the men and women of the Fire Service and they should be greatly appreciated and applauded for the effort and hard work put into the protection of life and property,”