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Scotia adopts budget, keeps fire chief Richard Kasko

The Village of Scotia Board of Trustees adopted a $5.6 million budget Tuesday, April 22, and with it preserved the $70,000-a-year position of full-time fire chief.

The adopted budget includes a projected tax rate of $10.12 per $1,000 of assessed home value, which is down 31 cents from the previous year.

Earlier this month, emotions ran high at board meetings as officials considered eliminating Fire Chief Richard Kasko's job in order to present a budget they considered affordable to taxpayers. As they hammered out the village budget, Scotia officials said the real question was whether or not the village could fund the position, not whether it is necessary.

Village officials turned to Schenectady County officials for answers last week and were told by David Ernst, director of public information for the Civil Service Commission, that the full-time position was not legally required, but Ken Almy, president of the Scotia Permanent Firemen's Association, said the position is needed to run the department in a manner that Scotia residents deserve.

It's a matter of safety and overall management, said Almy.

In an earlier interview, Mayor Kris Kastberg said he contacted the county to see if they are interested in taking over the duties of managing the department. He stated in the past that consolidating services was a top priority to save taxpayers money.

In coming up with the budget, the village looked at a number of factors, including a $472,000 bond for public works items and improving downtown businesses.

Trustee Armon Benny had proposed cuts totaling $269,000, money, he said, that can go back into the pockets of village residents.

"Recognizing the very difficult economic times we all are facing -- rising energy costs, increasing food costs, greater health-care contributions for the private-sector employees, higher cost prescriptions -- and with no end in sight, I believe a new approach to budgeting must be implemented. I call it 'kitchen table budgeting.' Families, seniors and businesses in Scotia face very uncertain financial times, and it is my responsibility to understand this and balance the needs of the community against the needs for people and businesses to keep more of their own money. Many of my proposed spending reductions are for what can be called 'nice to do projects,' but right now is not the time to ask taxpayers for money they can best use in their personal lives," said Benny.""

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