By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — The fire department could end up $225,000 over budget, due to rising overtime expenses.
Acting fire Chief Darren O’Brien told the Town Council last week the budget numbers are being monitored closely, right now, projected numbers show the budget overage.
“The vast majority of this is overtime,” O’Brien said.
Those expenses are the hardest to determine, he said, as overtime costs rise unexpectedly, depending on the man hours and coverage needed.
Staffing levels at the fire stations are set at 10 per shift, due to a previous council directive.
Voters in town approved additional overtime money for the fire budget several years ago.
Approximately 70 percent of the fire budget has been spent as of March 1, O’Brien said, with more than 93 percent of the overtime budget spent.
“We are tearing the budget apart to see where we are at,” he said.
Other costs hampering the fire budget were unexpected costs for vehicle maintenance and the failure of an emergency generator at the Central Fire Station. Due to the rising costs, O’Brien said, a freeze was put on all non-essential spending.
“We’re not spending a dime unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he said.
Town councilors plan to address the budget at a meeting May 6 as the end of the current fiscal year gets closer.
“We will take a snapshot of where we are as we come into the finish line,” Councilor Tom Dolan said.
Interim Town Manager William Hart said overtime was the driving concern in the fire budget.
“You can’t have what you can’t pay for, and we’re going to figure out how to do this,” he said.
Hart said the town will look at the fire department numbers over the next several months to see what can be done to keep the budget in check without affecting service to the community or the safety of those who serve in the department.
He said other revenue sources in town were favorable this year and other departments could arrive at or under budget. That would be a boost to offset the fire department spike.
“We’ll have mitigation plans in the future before the Town Council,” Hart said. “There is a solution to this problem. We are getting a handle on the real dollar costs we are spending at the fire department. I do expect we’ll come out OK.”