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February 24, 2013

City fire budget compared to similar communities

(Continued)

In 2002, the total budget was $3,345,771, almost $1.2 million less than now. But, the city had 48 full-time firefighters and two part-timers in 2002, about 10 more than now.

The lowest-paid firefighter made $24,440 10 years ago, and the highest-paid earned $52,772.

REVENUE

The Fire Department actually contributes to city coffers, bringing in revenue through its ambulance service.

In 2012, the department showed receipts of $423,643, although the year-end figures were not yet complete, according to City Chamberlain Richard Marks.

The department receives money from Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance companies for ambulance transports. Marks said the yearly amount depends on what the insurance companies will pay.

“If a transport costs $900, we might only get half of that,” he said.

MORE FIREFIGHTERS

The City of Oswego on Lake Ontario has 66 full-time firefighters — 29 more than Plattsburgh — for a city that’s slightly smaller at 18,158 people. They run four platoons of 16 firefighters each.

The department just switched Jan. 1 from 10- and 14-hour shifts to 24-hour shifts, the same as used by Plattsburgh.

“It’s a different animal, but we are going through it pretty open-minded,” Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie said.

There is no minimum-staffing clause in the union contract.

They use volunteers only when all paid firefighters have been called in first, the same as Plattsburgh.

SMALLER BUDGET

The budget for the Oswego Fire Department this year is $4,965,673, which is about $373,600 less than Plattsburgh’s despite having more firefighters.

The lowest-paid firefighter makes $36,748 (higher than Plattsburgh), and the top figure is $51,927 (lower than Plattsburgh).

McCrobie says he anticipates the department will bring in about $1.4 million in revenue for 2013 from its ambulance service, which helps keep their overall budget down.

One reason it takes in almost a million more than Plattsburgh is that Oswego has six ambulances, although usually two to four are operating on a given day.

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