Rescue team, CERT cuts reinstated

Ashland Fire Rescue's training budget and its popular Community Emergency Response Team program will be trimmed after all.

On Monday night, the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee cut $109,000 in skills maintenance training, technical rescue team training and CERT program money from the fire department's budget. The CERT program, which trains residents to be self-sufficient and aid the community during disasters, will be scaled back but not eliminated.

The budget committee did allow the fire department to keep $7,000 to pay emergency workers overtime to staff community events like Fourth of July festivities.

Fire officials had hoped they would be spared training and CERT program cuts when they gave up $116,000 to pay the salary and benefits for an Operations Division Chief. That still-vacant position was authorized three years, but three recruitment attempts failed after top candidates turned down job offers, citing Ashland's high housing costs. Fire officials had planned another recruitment effort this year.

The budget committee cut even deeper into Ashland Fire Rescue's budget after city staff discovered the department will not have as much money left over this fiscal year to carry over into the next fiscal year, which starts in July.

The Ashland Police Department avoided further cuts, even though the reductions they proposed for the coming fiscal year will cause future budget problems.

The police department will delay hiring several new people until half-way through the fiscal year in January 2008. It will only have to pay half of the new hires' salary and benefits in the coming fiscal year, but will face the full cost of the added personnel in future years.

"Delaying hires by six months isn't really a cut," City Administrator Martha Bennett said.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or To post an on-line comment, visit .

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