Southborough’s public safety chiefs went before the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee last night to make the case for a level-service budget for next year. Both Interim Fire Chief Michael Dunne and Police Chief Jane Moran said proposed cuts would harm their already understaffed departments.
A level-service budget for the fire department would be $1.8 million, about $32,000 over the current fiscal year. For the fire department, taxpayers would have to approve $1.64 million, about $87,000 over the current year.
Dunne said Southborough’s Fire Department ideally would operate with five firefighters on duty during each of its four shifts. Currently two shifts have five and the other two have four firefighters. Proposed cuts to the overtime budget could mean some shifts would have to operate with only three firefighters on duty, Dunne said.
“You are going to have some shifts with three people,” he told Selectmen and Advisory Committee members. “That’s just unsafe for the firefighters, and I don’t think it’s what the residents of Southborough expect.”
Dunne also said the proposed budget does not build in enough money for training on-call and full-time personnel.
Moran told board members the police department is also running lean. The department currently has 13 full-time officers, the same number it had in 2000, but Moran said call volumes have increased significantly over the past decade.
She also said the nature of crimes today – things like home break-ins and domestic violence – are more time-consuming than the types of calls they handled in 2000. “We don’t just sit around anymore. We jump from call to call,” she said.
Selectmen and Advisory Committee members asked questions of both chiefs, but did not say whether they would support a level-service budget for either department.
You can read another take on last night’s discussion in this article by the Metrowest Daily News.