Volunteer Fire Departments Struggle With Budget

By Brett Baldeck | 

Fire departments are used to seeing red, but this year it's a whole new kind for volunteer departments. Red from budget deficits.

"We are actually short $273,6791.01 this year," says Alvaton Fire Chief George Merkle.

The Alvaton Fire Department says this isn't the first time. For the last several years new state mandates have required them to purchase new equipment.

When one fire truck can cost as much as $850,000 departments have had to dip in to reserve funds.

"We are at the point now where the 2013 budget we actually had to cut the budget back to where our expenditures did not exceed our income because the savings are gone," says Chief Merkle.

Chief Merkle sat down with us Friday with budget in hand and says Warren County isn't doing enough to help.

"No direct money from Warren County. They still pay the utilities on the buildings and the maintenance," says Merkle.

Warren County Judge Executive Mike Buchanon says they do much more than that.

"It is difficult for every fire department to make ends meet. Even though the county does provide a significant coverage on most of their expenses. We pay all the utilities, we pay all the repairs on the trucks that we provide them. Even the trucks they buy themselves we pay the insurance on them," says Buchanon.

Buchanon says all services within the county are having some trouble meeting their budget. Ensuring all citizens have fire service remains a top priority.

"They not only provide protection from fire. They respond as first responders to accidents, to medical calls. In many cases it's the volunteer fire department that helps the patient before the ambulance arrives," says Buchanon.

Buchanon says things like water lines and fire hydrants are also paid for by the county. He says much of their support goes beyond what is seen on the budget.

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