The Montgomery Fire Department learned it may not get all the money it needs as day four of the 2010 budget negotiating process unfolded. One by one, city department heads have made their requests and one by one Mayor Todd Strange has suggested cuts.
"I don't have anything, because I'm stripping my budget to make budget..." explained Chief Milford Jordan.
Call it a one-two punch for the department. Payroll budgets shouldn't be a problem for an organization that's become understaffed by more than 30 people, but the fire is raging. Fewer firemen trying to cover more shifts eats through overtime reserves like heat to Styrofoam.
Hiring more people won't curb this problem, though. The fire department must train new employees for almost half a year before they're ready to hit the streets, meaning Chief Jordan has no way to immediately reduce the overtime.
It's a hard concept for the mayor wrap his arms around. "When we start doing this thing "reality'" explained Jordan, "the numbers looks good and it sounds good here, but when we start doing this my overtime is unpredictable."
Overtime isn't the only problem the department faces. Its fleet of fire trucks is fading fast. Jordan said one of his men is getting ready to retire in January after 34 years on the force and he laments that one of the trucks that is still in use today was being used when the man started back in 1975.
The department head left the meetings with a proposed budget of $31 million or about one million short of what it requested. Chief Jordan says he still feels like the mayor knows what the department needs to function, however.
One of the biggest takeaways with MFD's budget meeting wasn't the 2010 fiscal year budget, It's a 2 year priority list, or plan, to get the department back up to staff and the trucks back up to full speed.