Jan 27, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia Village Board of Trustees has unanimously endorsed a proposal to create a retirement benefits program for the members of the Cazenovia Volunteer Fire Department. The program will not be instituted, however, until it is approved by village residents in a public referendum vote, which will occur during the regularly scheduled village election in June.
The Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP), which was created by the New York state legislature in 1990, would allow firefighters with enough years of service to accrue a monetary amount — similar to a retirement or 401K benefit — at retirement at age 65, with a maximum allowance of 40 years’ worth. There is also a lump sum death benefit.
Enrolled firefighters would receive $700 in an account for each year of service accrued. The cost of funding the program — to be funded by the village — would cost approximately $77,000 annually for the first five years, and $40,000 every year thereafter, said Mayor Kurt Wheeler. “That [$77,000] is the highest possible cost if every eligible firefighter qualifies for the program,” which the village does not expect to happen, Wheeler said. About 60 percent of the department is expected to qualify, he said.
Comparatively, the salary of a professional firefighter is about $85,000 per year with benefits, the board has been told at previous meetings on the topic.
The main goal of instituting the program is to improve the department’s ability to recruit and retain members.
The board’s action endorsing the program came at the end its third public hearing on the proposal, which occurred during a special meeting of the board on Tuesday, Jan. 21, and had about 30 people in attendance.
One of the few public comments made during the hearing came from Cazenovia Town Supervisor Bill Zupan, who said he feels the LOSAP is a “great thing to do for the firefighters because they do so much,” but wondered what the effect of the program would be on the town’s budget and the town board’s ability to keep its budget under the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.
While the department is under the auspices of the village and the village pays the ultimate cost for its operation, the surrounding towns of Cazenovia, Nelson and Fenner sign fire contracts to receive coverage and budget money each year for the service.
Wheeler said the intention of the village board is to keep all fire contracts “to no more than a 2 percent increase per year,” which would help prevent contracting towns from exceeding the tax cap.
Zupan asked if the village would be willing to enter into a long-term contract with the town to keep those costs down to the 2 percent limit, to which Wheeler said he could not promise to do it, but believes the village board can “operate on that premise” during the upcoming budget process.
“We think this is a financially prudent thing for everybody,” he said.
Because LOSAP participants must first qualify with their annual 50 points, if the program were approved by the village in 2014, the first payouts would not occur until 2015, he said.
Also at the meeting, the board:
—Scheduled a public hearing for 6:55 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, to review a proposed local law to revise the senior village tax adjustment minimum income requirement. Currently, senior citizens who make less than $18,500 per year are eligible for a 50 percent reduction in their yearly assessment. That minimum income has not changed in decades, so the board will consider changing the minimum to a yearly income somewhere around $25,000.
—Agreed to authorize the creation of a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for the vision and master plan regarding the anticipated improvements and renovations of Lakeland Park and Carpenter’s Barn. The plan will be paid for with the $22,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that the village recently received.
—Authorized village officials to work with CACDA to begin exploring the next round of state grants to which the village can apply to help offset the costs of renovating or replacing the Lakeland Park wrought-iron fence.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.