Carroll firefighters ask county for $8.1 million in funds for fiscal 2006

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Carroll County volunteer firefighters are asking the county for $8.1 million for fiscal year 2006 to cover operating expenses for the 14 fire companies, the county firefighters association, round-the-clock ambulance coverage and emergency-vehicle drivers.

Bill Eyler, chairman of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association budget committee, told firefighters at a meeting Monday that the committee trimmed $762,000 from a $8.86 million budget request.

Even with those cuts, the budget that was presented to the county budget office was $274,000 more than what the county projected the firefighters needed, Eyler said.

Last year, the firefighters received $7.45 million from the county, said Bridgett Miller, county budget analyst who handles the firefighters' budget.

The fiscal 2006 budget request includes:

Slightly more than $4 million for the 14 fire companies.

$508,829 for administrative budgets, including malpractice and workmen's compensation insurance.

$389,000 for health and wellness, including physicals for volunteers.

$520,000 for the emergency-vehicle operator/driver (EVOD) staffing.

$2.68 million for round-the-clock ambulance coverage.

"EVOD and 24/7 coverage budgets are per the plan that we came up with that was accepted by the county," Eyler said. "Negotiations [for the budget request] are still needed on that."

Eyler said the county's projected figure was lower than what the round-the-clock plan called for, and did not include money for EVOD funding.

"We have to show cause why we're requesting that much," he said.

Eyler said the firefighters asked for full funding of the health and wellness program to cover the cost of physical examinations for 800 volunteers. Last year, the county gave the association $200,000 toward the program.

The health and wellness budget does not include Mount Airy, which is funded by Frederick County, he said.

This year's budget request also does not include the Length of Service Program, which has become a separate, self-funded plan, Eyler said. That program provides a stipend for volunteers age 60 or older who have served 25 years or more.

"The guys did extremely well trying to maintain the status quo from last year," said Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association President Marianne Warehime. "They did their justifications and made the budget process less painful."

In May, the firefighters, fire chiefs, emergency medical services and fire police combined into one association, which is also saving the group money, Warehime said.

"We realigned categories from the old group to the new association and reduced some items in the budget, such as postage and stationery, so the funding is all in one pot," she said. "Some things, like fuel and utilities, remained close to the same as last year."

The firefighters will meet with the commissioners in March to go over the budget, Eyler said. The commissioners also will hold public hearings on budget requests before approving the budget at the end of May.

Because of an editing error, an article in yesterday's Carroll County edition about the county firefighters' budget contained incorrect information about funding for emergency vehicle/operator drivers. Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association budget chairman Bill Eyler said the county did include, but did not list separately, funds for these drivers as well as round-the-clock ambulance staffing. The Sun regrets the error.
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