Village board endorses fire department service awards program

Will go to public referendum vote in June

— 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.

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