– Increased equipment costs, with compliance leading to increases in Litchfield’s proposed budget
LITCHFIELD – Skyrocketing costs for materials and equipment maintenance, coupled with supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, are driving some of the spending increases faced by city officials here as a proposed budget is reviewed.
Most departments posted only slight increases, but the proposed budget for fire and rescue includes an increase of $25,500 over the previous budget, primarily due to regulatory compliance costs and increased cost of materials.
At a meeting on Monday, Litchfield Fire Chief Michael Sherman noted prices were up across the board, including the fire department, but he was shocked to learn how much he costs to maintain certain equipment.
“A filter for one of these repairs absolutely doubled in cost,” Sherman said. “It was over $300 for a single filter for one of the maintenance items on one of these pumps.
Regulatory compliance alone increased by $7,500 over last year. The proposed budget also included a new $8,000 line for personal protective equipment, which Sherman says includes turnout gear, structural firefighting gear, forestry gear, vests, helmets and goggles.
In total, the amount requested for the year 2022-23 is $145,050. Last year, $119,550 was allocated.
The truck repair line is at $13,000, an increase of $4,000 from what was affected last year. And although $9,000 was allocated from the previous budget, the actual amount spent as of Feb. 27 was $17,909.
Sherman said the majority of that figure represents roughly what it costs simply to keep trucks compliant. He said there were only about three instances in which the trucks needed actual repairs, and each instance was minor and under $1,000.
The Chief was asked if the $7,500 regulatory compliance increase was entirely mandatory, and he said yes.
When asked how many were with the department, Sherman said 23 were currently with the fire department, adding that one had just been hired and was soon having an interview with another. potential member.
The proposed emergency services budget of $49,937 is only up $1,374 from the previous budget year. The only line of the budget that has increased is that of distribution.
City Manager Kelly Weissenfels said the increase is due to an increase in the city’s dispatch contract.
The recreation department’s proposed budget of $19,050 is up $949 from the previous year, with a $1,000 addition to the recreation director’s salary and a $71 reduction for grounds maintenance.
Recreation director Tiffany Caton told the meeting that the pay rise was suggested by the city manager.
Weissenfels said the pay increase was based on Cato improving communication around the city and bringing value to the city through the department’s services.
“And the fact that the recreation director position has been the same for several years,” Weissenfels continued. “If you calculate the hours, it’s just above minimum wage.”
The proposed budget for cemeteries of $9,590 represents an increase of $1,950 over the previous year; $1,250 of this increase was due to a drought and a change of contractor, and also to ensure there was enough, as expenses can vary from year to year.
The Plains Cemetery post also increased by $700, which Weissenfels said was due to the Litchfield Plains Cemetery Association notifying the city that it had absorbed some of the maintenance costs. The figure includes $300 for care of veterans’ graves and $400 for grounds maintenance.
The proposed budget of $8,500 for the municipal newsletter shows only an increase of $700 over the previous budget due to increased printing and postage costs.
The proposed budget for the Gardiner Public Library of $25,609 is up $1,571 from last year. Since the Gardiner Library Association owns the building and property and is handling necessary upgrades and renovations, library director Justin Hoenke said the money provided to the facility by Litchfield funds only the services offered in the establishment.
Hoenke said one of the facility’s goals over the coming year is to leverage digital services to accommodate patrons who don’t want to physically visit the library. This includes a cloud library through the Maine State Library with access to the historic library’s microfiche archive, access to e-books and audiobooks through cell phones and tablets, and Hoopla, which is a service Netflix-like streaming service for libraries that allows patrons to borrow electronic media. , including comics and music, 15 times a month.
The senior center was the last area of the budget discussed on Monday. Its proposed budget of $21,200 is up $4,664 from last year, most of which allows for the rental of the Sportsmen’s Club to host activities that require a larger space like line dancing, tai chi and the orchestra.
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