February 24, 2013

City fire budget compared to similar communities

PLATTSBURGH — As municipalities across the state continue to struggle with fiscal challenges, department budgets are getting more and more scrutiny.

Plattsburgh, the only city in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, has two paid, uniformed public-safety departments — police and fire — and they account for a combined $13 million of the city’s $53 million budget.

Amid suggestions for changes to those departments, the Press-Republican looked in depth at their budgets and setup and how they compare to those in similar New York communities.


The Plattsburgh City Fire Department has an all-paid, full-time staff of firefighters who also work as emergency medical technicians. The contract requires the city have a minimum of 36 firefighters on staff.

At present, there are 37 members, including 36 firefighters and Assistant Chief Randy Stone, who is overseeing the department in the absence of a fire chief.

They work 24-hour shifts in four platoons of nine firefighters each, with three days off in between.

If they work two 24-hour shifts for a total of 48 hours in one pay period, they are credited eight hours of leave time in what is known nationally as a “Kelly Day,” in honor of a former New York City firefighter.

Those with 15 or more years of service — there are 12 of them — do not have EMT duty.

If a major fire breaks out, no volunteers from outside the city can be called in until all off-duty paid firefighters are summoned first.

The department covers an area of 6.6 square miles with a population of 19,949.


The City Fire Department’s 2012 budget shows a total cost of $5,339,304. That figure includes salaries, overtime pay, services, supplies, health care, retirement pension, workers’ compensation and disability pay.

The lowest-paid firefighter makes $30,239, while the highest-paid gets $64,056.

As with the cost of just about all government services, the price tag for running the Fire Department has grown over the years.

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