LONDONDERRY — There are solutions for how the town's fire department will handle budget spikes, but they could mean fewer firefighters on duty.

That news came from Town Manager Kevin Smith, who gave an update to town councilors at a meeting April 20.

Smith was charged by the council to find ways to help the fire department handle rising overtime costs and other budget overages.

Earlier this month, fire Chief Darren O'Brien told officials almost all of his overtime/replacement money had been spent.

That was due, in part, to a very harsh winter and other unexpected circumstances, he said.

Smith said he met with the chief to talk about the numbers and to come up with ways to help soften the blow when it comes to department spending.

O'Brien reported his department's budget faced a shortfall due to higher-than-expected costs and overtime/replacement pay.

Up to $200,000 could be needed to help make up the losses, Smith said.

The fire budget is approximately $6.5 million.

Smith said solutions included locating other areas in the fire budget to find savings to absorb the ongoing overages.

Those include putting a hold on some training until the next fiscal year, Smith said.

The last piece of the puzzle could mean keeping staff at a certain level.

"We will be running a staff level of nine on a 24-hour basis now until June 30," Smith said.

With those initiatives in place, Smith said, there is hope.

If other measures are needed, Smith said the town could resort to finding savings in other departments. That could be a substantial help, he said.

"But our goal is to have the fire department absorb their overages within their department," Smith said.

In March, residents approved hiring four new firefighters at a cost of $263,000. The plan is to stagger hiring over the next fiscal year.

Councilors have not made a decision on whether to move forward.

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