I write this letter to clarify some of the details in the letter to the Editor submitted by Jim Beretta.
- Beretta complained last year when board members he got elected to Board of Fire Commissioners (BOFC,) passed a budget with a decrease in taxes that was such a decrease, this year the taxes had to be increased to make up for that decrease. It allowed for no excess monies to offset extra costs for Covid and other unseen issues faced this year.
- In the past when he was a commissioner, he passed two budgets which exceeded the tax cap, one of those years it was a 7% increase.
- There is a need for additional space at the Croft Fire Station for bunk room space to house 24/7 career staff. He was a board member when they added the additional personnel. As chairman, he had bids to modify existing floor space (putting a bunk room in the equipment bays) at a cost of $550,000. The current board has a plan to add a second story to the rear of Croft fire station at a cost to the district of $248,000 which is for materials only. The volunteer’s members at Croft will cover the cost of all labor for this addition at an estimated cost of $250,000. The addition will also add much-needed space, handicap restrooms, and a shower which was not available with the Beretta expansion plan. That is a major upgrade and savings for the district and yes, it did cause an increase in this year’s taxes for the materials.
- Due to the Pandemic, the firefighter’s retirement contribution increased by $400,000. This was due to the fact the state figures the district’s contribution to the retirement system in March when the stock market and economy were at a 10 year low.
The rent Croft charges the BOFC is $50,000, not the $66,000 Beretta lists. This cost has not increased in 6 years and is a decrease from the rent charged in the past. While Beretta was commissioner, he participated in a study to abandon the Croft station and build a new station at district expense in front of the IBM main plant. The estimate for that station was $20.34 Million Dollars and would be many times more expensive at today’s rates for construction. If he was still commissioner he would be pushing to proceed to build this station due to his hatred for the volunteers at Croft Fire Station.
Due to a major decline in volunteers, the district needs to add additional career firefighters at the Red Oaks Mill Fire Station and Rochdale Station over the next 2 years. This has a major impact on this year’s taxes but is needed for the safety of the firefighters, EMS, and taxpayers.
In order to help keep the budget as low as possible the union renegotiated the current contract which called for a 2% raise for 2021 and signed a new contract which calls for a 0 % increase for the next 4 years. This is a major decrease in spending. The previous contract, negotiated by Beretta, called for 5 straight years with a 2% increase each year, increased the minimum manning from 8 per shift to 13, and eliminated the free fire district-run ambulance. Beretta was no friend of the taxpayers while he was the commissioner.
Beretta mentions the fire tax is higher than the county and town taxes. Keep in mind, the fire district receives no sale tax, permit money, fees, or monies from NYS that the county and Town receive to offset taxes.
Town of Poughkeepsie
Past Chief and Commissioner
Arlington Fire District
The opinions in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Mid Hudson News.