Michael J. Wozniak: Questions adding positions to S. Hadley Fire District 1

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Attention South Hadley Fire District 1 taxpayers, get ready for an increase in the fire tax.

At a Feb. 24 Prudential Committee Meeting, the fire chief proposed adding two additional advance life support paramedics to the Fire Department, bringing the contingent up to 24 full-time positions. While the chief stated that the combined salary of both positions would add $124,590 to the department’s payroll, he did not originally take into consideration the high cost of other ongoing benefits for adding these two positions, as confirmed later by the fire chief and the clerk/treasurer.

Other costs that must be added to the calculation are: drills, $3,919, uniforms, $1,200, health insurance, $35,161, dental insurance, $3,321, life insurance, $128 and retirement, $43,729. This brings the total cost of adding two paramedics to a whopping $212,048. This still doesn’t take into account overtime, step raises, other post employment benefits, retirement rate increases and fiscal 2022 contract negotiations.

Guess where the money to fund these two positions is coming from? The answer is you, in the form of increased fire taxes. These two positions were already voted on and added to the fiscal 2022 budget by the Prudential Committee chairman and the Prudential Committee clerk. It was a 2-1 vote with no outside public input or any public written justification.

Public safety is one thing, but fiscal responsibility is another. These costs represent a 6–7% increase in the fiscal 2022 spending at a time when people in town are struggling to pay their bills. How much more can people afford to pay?

These are questions that you might want to ask. Furthermore, these two new paramedic positions and all their associated costs should be listed as a separate warrant article at the district meeting for an up-or-down vote. Please consider attending the annual district meeting to be held on April 14 at 6 p.m. at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School, 15 Mulligan Drive, and voice your opposition to these actions.

Michael J. Wozniak

South Hadley

The writer is former Prudential Committee chairman.