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Manlius: Village board adopts controversial budget

By Jennifer Kiefl

The Manlius Village board unanimously voted to adopt the 2008-2009 budget at a special meeting last night, where Mayor Rick Penhall was absent. The budget, called unsatisfactory by trustee Natalie Minor, received approval during a subdued and quiet meeting, which differed from last Tuesday's animated public hearing.

The public hearing drew nearly a dozen members of the Manlius Fire Department, including Chief Paul Whorrall and both career and volunteer fire fighters. They expressed concerns about potential cuts to what they considered the recruitment and training portion of their budget.

Deputy Fire Chief Robert Bennett said that after Sept. 11, firefighters are considered the front line, going in first and coming out last. Former trustee and liaison to the fire department Tim Fox said that he admires firefighters, and if any money needs to be cut from the budget, it shouldn't be taken away from them. They have a "sometimes thankless" job but are proud of what they do for the village, he said.

Also, David Garwood speaking for David Pinsky, a firefighter and lawyer, said there was a secret budget meeting after the public notice was given for the hearing, and that the board needs to be transparent with its budget process because the public's safety is important.

While the board has great respect for the fire department and its commitment to the community, they questioned why the overall budget of $762,609 had a nearly 50 percent increase from last year's actual budget of $462,705.32. Minor said that the board wanted to provide service, training and equipment but needed to understand the justification behind the increase, and trustee Scott McGrew said that none of the fire department's training requisitions have ever been denied.

The two changes in the budget that caused the concern within the fire department were a $16,000 cut in training, and a $23,000 cut in facilities from the original $46,000 that will be split over two fiscal years. That money is to help determine what is the best course of action in terms of rehabilitating the current fire stations. There was also a $4,000 cut in office supplies made to the budget. A budget workshop took place last Wednesday to give the board and the fire department the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings and issues before the budget was adopted.

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