JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — Unforeseen financial burdens have complicated the hiring of new firefighters in Jamestown, whose salaries are funded as part of a million dollar federal grant.
During Monday’s city council meeting, lawmakers spent hours discussing financial impacts of hiring eight new firefighters paid for by a $1.8 million dollar FEMA grant.
Jamestown City Council members are worried about unseen costs not covered by the allocation.
“These numbers do not include any overtime at all,” explained Councilman Jeff Russell. “They do not include comp time sell back, or any kind of impact pay, or other form of compensation from what I’m seeing. So, these are assuming that these firefighters do not work a single hour of overtime in 36 months, which is unrealistic.”
The former first responder, turned councilman, goes on to say if council approves the additional hires, and the Federal funds are not renewed, it would ultimately cost the city millions of dollars.
“It’s financially reckless to think that we can add $3.6 million dollars into our budget,” said Russell. “I would love more firefighters, I would love more police officers. But it comes down to what can this community, and what can our taxpayers afford.”
Harking back to his time working with Jamestown Police, Russell knows the life shattering news of being laid off can be.
“Our budget can’t handle this increase,“ stated Russell. “And if we don’t get this grant renewed in 36 months, pink slips are going to be handed out. People will be laid off.”
Due to federal regulations, lawmakers cannot raise taxes to fill gaps.
“Even if we wanted to add three million dollars to our budget, we can’t legally do it,“ explained Council President Tony Dolce.
Another crucial point brought up is, if the City of Jamestown moves forward and purchases an additional ambulance, the fire department will need the new hires to operate it.
On Wednesday, we will dive deeper into debate for the EMS improvements.