AFD shaves $387,000 off budget

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Fire Chief James Carswell told Albany City Commissioners this week that a larger-than-normal stockpile of cash in the city's 911 reserves will help spare the general fund by more than $500,000 this year and almost $400,000 next year.

State law limits how much in reserves can be collected in the city's 911 telephone reserve fund. That fund receives its revenues from fees collected from cell phone users.

"The reserves were about to hit that limit, so we've been able to use them to help ease the general fund, but we won't be able to do it for very long," Carswell said. "These are short-term solutions to the city's budget issues, and these costs will have to be returned to the general fund in future years as the collections for the 911 telephone funds only pay for approximately two-thirds of total cost of operating the 911 center."

In total, the budget for FY 2012 presented by Carswell Tuesday is $12,016,872. That amount includes $3,012,277 that the county pays through an intergovernmental agreement with the city for fire stations and staff outside the corporate city limits.

While the budget proposal is roughly $387,000 less than FY 2011, operating costs are projected to increase by $196,213 more than in the current budget, which has been attributed mostly to increasing fuel costs.

The Albany Fire Department equips and maintains 188 employees, 13 buildings and 43 vehicles, Carswell said.

According to fire chief, the department responded to 3,819 calls for service last year, and the department's 2010 fire loss was valued at $4 million. Carswell told commissioners that property involved in fires was valued at $83.5 million, for a net savings from fires at $79.5 million, or 95.2 percent of the value saved.

Carswell said most of the equipment purchased by the department is done so using special-purpose local-option sales taxes rather than the city's general fund, which comes from property taxes and fees.

One piece of new equipment that will be used during the new fiscal year was delivered Thursday.

Public safety and municipal driving simulators were purchased using a mixture of SPLOST funding and a Firefighter's Assistance Grant.

The simulators will allow firefighters, police officers, transit bus drivers and others to train without risking damage to city-owned vehicles or injury to the public.

The department ultimately plans to use the simulators to generate revenue by offering them for use to other departments around Southwest Georgia for a fee.