Board at odds over how to fund full-time GFD position

No one is arguing about the need for firefighter/paramedic but some officials object to tapping capital fund
By 
CONNOR CARYNSKI
Ozaukee Press staff

Grafton trustees are split on how the village will pay for a new full-time firefighter and paramedic position. 

The position was included in the proposed 2022 budget after recognizing that the village fire department is in need of additional staff to maintain quality services, but some trustees are concerned that the position may not be sustainable long-term.  

The village estimates the new full-time firefighter and paramedic position will cost about $65,045 annually, after taking into account the $21,336 the Town of Grafton would pay as their share for village fire services. 

The Village Board discussed the proposed budget and how the position should be funded during a Nov. 1 Village Board meeting. 

Options for funding the paramedic position included allocating $56,092 of the fire department’s capital equipment funds toward the position. 

According to village documents, of the $930,000 fund balance, only $60,000 of expenditures are requested in 2022 and that the department would be able to fund its five-year capital plan in  addition to the new position. 

Village President Jim Brunnquell said this option would assure the position could be funded for one year and allow time to find other dependable revenue sources. 

“At least we have a start,” he said. 

But some trustees expressed concerns about using capital funds for the reoccurring cost without having other revenue sources in place. 

Lisa Harbeck said she would not support a budget that financed the position with the capital funds. 

“If people want to take it from the capital, they can take it,” she said. “I’m not taking it from the capital fund, it’s a slippery slope.” 

Instead, Harbeck said, she supports another alternative presented by village staff. 

The option would move $55,000 budgeted for the police department to make upgrades to its evidence room for the new position. 

Harbeck said the paramedic position takes priority and that the evidence room project could be revisited in future years. 

“Fifty-five thousand dollars to upgrade the evidence room seems like a lot at this point,” she said. 

  Village staff was directed to put together another draft of the budget that funds the paramedic position with the capital funds. No action was taken on the budget. 

Under the proposed 2022 budget, the village tax rate would rise by four cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The village levy will also increase by 3.4% by utilizing unused levy funds from 2020 and by taking into account new construction in the village. 

The 2022 budget also included funding for a new Department of Public Works crew person position, which is expected to cost about $79,096 annually. The new position is expected to be financed with about $167,000 in unspent tax dollars, with the remainder going toward the general fund.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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