Budget passes in Central Coventry Fire District

Voters approved a new budget for the Central Coventry Fire District Monday night by a ratio of more than 5-to-1.

That's an accomplishment, given the district has not approved a budget in three years. But it's only the start of the next fight because the budget passed with everyone knowing the district still needs to make cuts.

A meeting that accompanied the vote devolved into shouting and name calling, but the ballot box is what mattered in the end.

The result was loud and clear. Voters overwhelmingly approved the new budget, 757-136, with a message for their firefighters.

"Right now, I think they have to re-do the contract and work it so it's more affordable," Jon Becker, a taxpayer, said.

"We think the taxes are already pretty high. We don't want to go any higher than this over exorbitant pays," said Carole Murphy.

"I can't trust the firemen, and that's a horrible way to feel," Fred Perry said.

The $5.6 million budget comes after taxpayers have rejected previous spending plans, complaining spending was too high.

The district ended up in court receivership and three fire stations closed. The head of the fire district board said the new budget that he and his board backed requires the firefighters to give back more than $1.5 million.

The firefighters union claims it offered more than $1 million in concessions, but it was rejected.

"We didn't feel they were sufficient or the proper type concessions that we would need to make the long term viability of this district," said Fred Gralinski, chairman of the fire district board.

Gralinski said if the firefighters don't give more, the district could be liquidated.

"The firefighters are here to help. We're here to assist and we'll do what we can to make the budget numbers work," union President David Gorman told NBC 10 after the budget vote.

Gorman said many taxpayers feel the firefighters need to give back more because of "mischaracterizations, lies, misinterpretations."

The two sides are due back in court Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, tax bills based on the newly passed budget will go out soon, with a residential rate of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value and a commercial rate of $3.75.