By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — Town Supervisor Paul Macko is predicting the town will have a difficult budget cycle this year.
“It’s my belief, and the rest of the board members and the public can echo in, that this is probably going to be the most difficult budget cycle that we have ever encountered in 40 years in the town of Greenville this fall,” Macko said at the May 16 meeting of the Greenville Town Council.
The challenge will be coming up with a budget that meets the needs of the town while contending with high prices and record inflation rates that have been impacting the nation.
“I think with inflation running at close to 8.5%, fuel oil and diesel and gasoline [up], fuel oil for houses is up 80%, gasoline is up 46% for the year, and those numbers don’t factor into your inflation,” Macko said. “I think it’s going to be a very, very difficult budget cycle this year.”
The higher costs across the board — including gasoline prices that are nearing the $5 mark in Greene County — will also impact other components of the budget.
One area of the budget that remains up in the air is the new contract the town is negotiating with the Greenville Rescue Squad.
The squad’s contract with the town expires in December and talks stalled after the organization presented the town board with a proposed five-year contract that would take effect in January 2023.
Macko said at the May 16 meeting that the contract issues have nothing to do with the services the squad provides, but rather the contract terms that were proposed.
“We are very pleased with the services that the Greenville Rescue Squad provides — they do a fabulous job,” Macko said. “We are very pleased with the services that are provided. I really, truly wish that we could try to come to terms with a contract.”
After contract negotiations came to a standstill early this year, Macko said at the board meeting that he will reach out to the group’s board chairman, Ted Nugent Jr.
“We will try to come up with some kind of an agreement that works,” Macko said. “My concern with the taxpayers is the first year of the proposed contract that we got shortly before Christmas was pretty near a 34% increase in the tax rate for the rescue squad for one year. And then it drops back more in line with 1.7%, 1.8% for the remaining four years of a five-year contract.”
There are also other contracts that are in negotiations this year, including the town’s agreements with the Teamsters union and the Freehold Volunteer Fire Company, Macko said.
“It’s going to be a busy time,” he said.
Contract negotiations are also taking place against a backdrop of record inflation rates and rising prices.
Greenville Rescue Squad board member Clif Powell III said those high prices, coupled with the need to raise salaries to retain emergency medical technicians in a competitive job market, are seriously impacting the organization.
“What the town is paying doesn’t even cover the salaries,” Powell said.
Neighboring ambulance services have raised their own salaries recently to hold onto employees and attract new ones, and the Greenville squad needs to keep up, Powell said.
“We have to look at raising salaries again in order to keep people,” Powell said. “Getting and keeping personnel is the hardest part.”
Macko agreed maintaining adequate numbers of employees is a challenge in the current economy, but said the proposed contract is not doable.
“We are going to have to try to work it out,” the town supervisor said. “A 34% increase in one year in this economy — I don’t know what the solution is and it’s not unique to Greenville. It’s everywhere. Everybody is going through the same thing.”
The Greenville Rescue Squad’s current three-year contract will expire Dec. 31.