CAROGA - The Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company is encouraging residents to attend a public hearing Wednesday because the town is close to being without fire protection because no new contract has been agreed to, a news release from the company said.
The proposed budget for 2013 is scheduled to be adopted, the release said, but residents also will be able to express concerns about the future of fire and Emergency Medical Services in their region.
"We are unsure how the town can be asking for a public review of a contract that we have not agreed to, reviewed or even had the chance to discuss with town officials," Chief Barbara Deluca said in the release.
Deluca said the department will have a chance to voice its concerns at the meeting Wednesday.
Robert Sullivan, a town councilman who also serves as president of the volunteer fire department, said the current contract will end Jan. 1.
"Our contract last year was in the neighborhood of $103,000 and we actually [spent more than] that dollar amount for the year," Sullivan said.
Last week, the town put forth a budget for the renewal of contract services for the all-volunteer fire company that included a 2 percent increase. The company was looking for a 5 percent increase, according to the release.
Deluca said a 5 percent increase equals $5,149. A 2 percent increase works out to $2,100.
The 5 percent increase would equate to an additional $1.80 per year for an average taxpayer, the release said.
Sullivan said the 5-percent increase has happened for the last five years and was expected to continue for the next five years, before dropping back down to 2 percent increases, so the department can get a new station built.
In the release, Deluca said not getting the 5 percent increase would set back the plan to replace the current firehouse - which was built in 1952 - by 10 years.
Deluca said at the company's meeting Nov. 5, the 22 members present voted against the town's proposal. There are 45 members of the fire company.
"The council is offering a 2 percent increase with no discussion," Sullivan said. "Not having fire coverage would be a disaster, so we are hoping the council will reconsider at the upcoming meeting."
If the contract is not renewed, the release said, the Fire Company will not be covered under worker's compensation. It also is unlikely other area fire departments would help in an emergency due to lack of coverage, the release said.
Deluca said the company conducts fundraisers and conducts itself in the most fiscally responsible way.
"I am concerned," Deluca said. "Now, we are not only fighting fires, we are fighting for our very existence."
Town Supervisor Ralph Ottuso could not be reached for comment.
The meeting about the budget will be held Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
Ottuso's proposed town budget for 2013 would cut the property-tax rate by 4.5 percent, a reduction of 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
According to information provided by town officials, the tax rate for this year was $7.23 per $1,000 of assessed property value, taking into account the fire, highway and general funds. The tentative tax rate for 2013 would be $6.90 per $1,000.
The total amount of the proposed budget is about $2.03 million. The total amount of the tax-levy would be $836,183.
Levi Pascher covers news in the surrounding area. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.