Retirements drive up proposed budget

NAUGATUCK — Upcoming retirements have had a profound effect on the Naugatuck Fire Department’s budget request.

The department presented a proposed $4.77 million budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year last week to the Board of Finance. The proposal is an increase of approximately $825,000, or 22 percent, over the department’s current budget.

The largest increases in the proposed budget come in payroll and overtime. Payroll is set to increase approximately $186,000 to $2.77 million, while overtime is proposed to go up $435,000 to $1.28 million.

Controller Robert Butler said these increases reflect the expectation that nine firefighters will retire during the 2016-17 fiscal year. These retirements come on the heels of the department recently hiring six new firefighters to fill open positions.

Some of those new firefighters had been through the fire academy, a prerequisite to working in Naugatuck, prior to being hired. The department does not have any other applicants that have already been through the academy, Butler said. So, when the department hires new firefighters to fill the open positions, it will have to put the recruits through the academy, he said.

While recruits are in the academy, the department pays them their salary and pays other firefighters overtime to cover the empty shifts, Butler said. He added that the department must pay to outfit and in-house train each new hire.

The proposed budget also includes an increase of about $100,000 in the employee retirement account to offset the cost of the upcoming retirements, Butler said.

The department is also seeking to fill the fire marshal position. The budget request seeks $62,150 for a fire marshal.

The department has not had a fire marshal for the past few years. Robert Weaver is currently the department’s acting fire marshal. The department is hoping to fill the position in order to catch up on a backlog of work, Butler said.

Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto said the board has only had a preliminary discussion on the department’s budget request and is not prepared to make a decision. However, she did have an initial thought on the proposed increase.

“It’s too high,” Scinto said.

Interim Fire Chief Ellen Murray could not be reached for comment.