Fairfield’s budget to accommodate more first responders in 2022

The city of Fairfield will continue budget hearings on Nov. 8 and Nov. 22, before City Council on Dec. 6 will consider approving the 2022 operating budget. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE
The city of Fairfield will continue budget hearings on Nov. 8 and Nov. 22, before City Council on Dec. 6 will consider approving the 2022 operating budget. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

Fairfield’s operating budget is expected to see a significant increase next year, which is in large part due to hiring more first responders.

The city is expected to spend $81.75 million next year but bring in close to $89 million in revenues, according to the 2022 proposed operating budget City Council will consider for approval in December.

Finance Director Jacob Burton said the city is continuing its practice of conservative revenue estimates, and keeping the expenditures as close to 2021 as possible. But with the addition of six firefighters, two police officers, and six full-time dispatchers in 2022, the budget is a 9.81% increase over 2021′s initial budget request, said Burton.

“Really everything is kind of status quo from this year, other than we are adding in police and fire personnel, and we increased our income tax refund expense account,” he said.

According to the proposed 2022 budget, the total estimated revenues are $89 million, an increase of 5.23% over 2021. The total estimated expenditures are $81.75 million, which is $7.3 million more than the 2021 request.

Increases to the fire department’s personnel are to assist with the staffing issues the department has experienced in recent years, as keeping part-time firefighters has been difficult, according to a May staffing presentation to City Council.

Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett, who is also the city’s acting city manager, said in May he has to be cautious of the “wear and tear on our people” and he “cannot, any longer, work our firefighter/paramedics like livestock.”

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In February, Police Chief Steve Maynard pitched his request to add two new police officers and transition the dispatch from 10 full-time and six part-time personnel to 16 full-time. The conversion of part-time dispatchers to full-time will allow one more person to work per shift, he said during the presentation.

“Your dispatchers are your lifeline,” Maynard said in February. “It’s a very chaotic and stressful job. Finding someone that is organized, level-headed, and can think on their feet, deal with stress, it’s not easy.”

The budget increase for police and fire personnel would collectively be $2.66 million for 2022, according to Burton’s budget presentation last month.

The city is estimating revenues for 2022 to be under what has been collected through September and projected to be collected for the remainder of 2021, Burton said.

Income tax collections for the city through September are up by $3.7 million, or 14.9%, over the same time frame last year. Through September, the city has collected $28.7 million in income tax revenues.

Additionally, the city is adding $1 million to its income tax refund program. Any employee of a business within Fairfield that worked from home in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but either pays no income tax or a lesser amount may seek a refund from the city.

“They’re going to be eligible to submit refund requests to the city,” said Burton. “If they work for an employer here in Fairfield but in all of 2021 they actually have been working remotely from their house in West Chester Twp. (with no income tax), they’re going to be able to submit a request to Fairfield for all their Fairfield local income tax.”

The refund program will be $2 million in 2022, twice as much as it was in 2021. Burton said it’s not anticipated the city would exceed $2 million in income tax refunds.

City Council will continue its budget hearings today and Nov. 22 before considering approving the 2022 operating budget on Dec. 6.

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