Volunteer firefighters seek $3 million to make up for fund-raising shortfall

March 04, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll volunteer firefighters said yesterday they need about $500,000 more from the county government next year because fund-raisers are not as successful as they used to be.

"It's getting tough to make a dollar," said Oscar Baker, a longtime member of the Mount Airy Fire Company.

Representatives of the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association asked the county commissioners for almost $3 million in the fiscal year 1995 operating budget.

The association represents 14 Carroll fire companies.

Volunteer firefighters have relied on fund-raisers such as bingo games and dinners for much of their money, Mr. Baker said. But firefighters have more competition from other community groups and residents have less money to spend now, he said.

For example, the Mount Airy company used to make $50,000 a year from bingo games, he said. Last year, bingo raised $20,000.

The county contributes 70 percent of the association's operating budget. For the next fiscal year, that would mean a contribution of about $2.7 million. The county contributed about $2.5 million to the association this year.

Association members have requested that the county increase its share to 75 percent of the total operating budget, which would mean a contribution of about $2.9 percent in the next fiscal year.

Mike Stewart, association second vice president and a member of the Pleasant Valley Fire Company, said the association also wants to give raises to cardiac rescue technicians (CRTs) and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

In the private sector, technicians earn more than double the hourly wage that volunteer fire companies pay, he said. Ten of the county's 14 volunteer companies employ CRTs and EMTs.

CRTs earn $7 an hour, and the association wants to increase the wage to $10 an hour. Budget Director Steven D. Powell has recommended that the county can afford an increase to $7.50 an hour.

EMTs earn $6.50 an hour, and the association wants to increase the wage to $8 an hour. Mr. Powell said the county can afford an increase to $7 an hour.

The association also asked to hire two part-time employees to perform duties handled now by volunteers.

A manager is needed to oversee activities at the firefighters' training center on Washington Road, schedule all classes there and keep an inventory, among other duties. The manager would earn $27,500 a year for working 30 hours per week.

A management assistant would help develop the association's annual budget, represent firefighters at county and state meetings and handle workers' compensation claims, among other duties. The assistant would earn about $25,000 a year for working 30 hours per week.

The increases the association has requested -- above the 50-cent CRT and EMT raises already recommended -- would add about $283,500 to the budget, said Jeffrey K. Topper, operating budget and revenue supervisor in the county budget office. The commissioners will consider the firefighters' requests before voting on a fiscal year 1995 budget in late May.

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