At a special meeting Monday night tax payers in Central Coventry rejected a budget that would have kept the fire district running but increase taxes. It was a close vote, 204 in favor 228 against, but as a result it is likely that the district will be consolidated or closed down.
Hundreds of people packed into the high school auditorium as court appointed Special Master Richard Land outlined a plan to get the district back on track. A clerical error left the district in the red and as a result residents are on the hook for the departments $1.5 million dollar budget deficit.
The proposed budget called for a 42% tax increase. The old rate per thousand was $1.82. If it was balanced, the rate should have been $2.44. The new proposed rate was $3.15.
If the budget had been approved the fire fighters union said it was willing to make concessions to their collective bargaining agreement including salary freezes, paying more health insurance out of pocket, and reducing longevity pay. The concessions would have saved the department $886,000 over a 3 year period.
Many residents were divided on the issue, but in the end voted down the budget 228 to 204. The options for the fire district are now to shut down, which could happen in days or weeks, or to liquidate. Bankruptcy is not an option, nor is voiding the collective bargaining agreement.
Land says there is now a very strong possibility the Central Coventry Fire District will shut down. He says they simply won't have the money to operate, and can't raise the funds needed to keep it open.