Schenectady County

Scotia keeps fire chief

Fire Chief Richard Kasko will keep his job for now and village residents will see a cut in their tax

Fire Chief Richard Kasko will keep his job for now and village residents will see a cut in their taxes after the Board of Trustees on Tuesday adopted a $5.6 million spending plan.

The projected tax rate is $10.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which is a 31-cent decrease from this year. A resident with a house assessed at $124,000 would pay about $1,255 in taxes, a reduction of about $38 per year.

Mayor Kris Kastberg said the board decided to hold off on any fire department changes.

“We’re still exploring options for administration of the fire house, but have not settled on any single option,” he said.

The board appropriated $70,000 for Kasko’s salary by taking it from a line item for retirement expenses.

Resident Karen Knuth of 124 N. Holmes St. spoke in favor of keeping the position. Property she owns at 514 S. Holmes St. was hit by a blaze next door, and she said the quick response of the Scotia Fire Department kept the damage from being worse. She worried that eliminating the chief’s position would be the first step toward eliminating the department altogether.

“I don’t want to consolidate services with Schenectady,” she said.

Kasko said he was obviously happy with the decision. He said Kastberg has not shared his long-range plans for the department.

However, the fire chief issue is apparently not going away. Following a lengthy executive session to discuss personnel issues, the board voted to schedule a public hearing for 7 p.m. May 14 on a proposed ordinance change that would allow the village to contract out for fire management services.

Civil service officials have said that the village is not legally required to have a paid fire chief. However, Kastberg said the village’s current code does not allow the village to contract out fire management services.

Most of Monday’s four-hour meeting was on the budget. The board cut about $100,000 from Kastberg’s original budget proposal. Cuts included $23,500 allocated for a fire vehicle replacement fund, $22,000 from a contingency fund and $10,000 from a building maintenance fund.

Deputy Mayor Joe Rizzo, who voted in opposition, said the village needs to spend money on maintenance.

“You wouldn’t keep your house the same way we keep this building,” he said.

The board removed $27,000 for license plate readers and cameras for the police cars and will seek grant funding instead. The village is going to purchase GPS devices for the vehicles. It will clean — instead of paint — the fire bays to save about $17,500.

It also eliminated the purchase of a small trailer to hold special new mowing equipment.

The board is going to save roughly $26,000 because it got a slightly lower rate for workers’ compensation insurance.

Funding left in the budget included $5,000 to have a dedicated security officer for village court nights. Whether that is a Scotia police officer or part-time security officer is still undecided. The board added $2,400 to tape Village Board meetings and $20,000 in economic development money from Metroplex targeted to paving John Street.

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