The Rural Municipality of Miscouche presented its 2018 budget Tuesday evening and many local firefighters showed up to the meeting, concerned about what it could mean for their department.
The fire department was involved in the budgeting process so they were aware of what to expect going into the meeting, which is why they showed up as a group.
What followed was a discussion which some firefighters said afterward left them confused and looking for answers.
According to the number presented at the meeting, the community budgeted $96,000 for the operation of the fire department in 2017. The proposed 2018 budget is for $101,500. The difference being that the 2018 budget accounts for 15 months whereas the 2017 budget was for the usual 12 months. The extra months are a one-time adjustment needed to bring all the province’s municipalities under compliance for the new Municipalities Act.
The firefighters argued that the budget as proposed represented an overall decrease in their funding.
“We are disappointed that council has cut the fire services budget by this much this year. Services will be affected. Our call volume has been increasing over the past years, which in turn, increases our operational costs,” said fire chief Jason Woodbury, in a statement.
Woodbury was out of the province and could not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
The community council tried to explain their position that they actually approved every item the fire department asked for except for a small travel allowance, which had been used to send department Woodbury to a memorial service out of province for the past few years, and one new computer system, which council asked the department to put on the backburner for the time being.
If there were other, unexpected items, that come up throughout the year, then council and the department could discuss them, as always, they said.
Firefighters were also concerned about a proposed increase to the fire dues Miscouche charges surrounding communities for fire protection.
Council has proposed an increase of about $10 per household, stating that they feel surrounding, unincorporated, communities should pay a little more to make the upkeep of the fire department more equal between those communities and residents of Mascouche.
A meeting to discuss that increase is scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, at 8 p.m. at the Miscouche fire hall.
Property taxes in the community are proposed to stay the same in 2018 while the sewer rate will see a small increase.
The community has until the next meeting of Miscouche council to provide public input on the document. Council will vote on the budget at that meeting.