East Williston passes referendum on firefighter service award increase

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East Williston passes referendum on firefighter service award increase
The Village of East Williston swore in a new trustee Monday night. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

Village of East Williston residents voted through a referendum Tuesday night that will alter the village’s Length of Service Award program for firefighters.

The referendum proposed an increase in funding for LOSAP, which is a service award program in which active firefighters can earn service credit yearly up to a maximum number of years of service and begin receiving their service award at a fixed entitlement age.

Village residents approved an increase in funding for the LOSAP for volunteer firefighters. The LOSAP referendum passed during a village election Tuesday night with 199 votes yes, according to the East Williston village.

The LOSAP funding is not included in this year’s budget despite some confusion over this point at last week’s meeting, at which the funding was a large topic of discussion.

The LOSAP referendum voted through Tuesday proposed that the minimum age at which a firefighter may begin to draw benefits be lowered to 62 instead of the current minimum age of 65.

Currently, firefighters who have met their entitlement requirements are authorized to receive that entitlement for each year of service in which they satisfied the participation requirements up to a maximum of 40 years. The referendum proposed that this maximum be raised to 50 years.

The referendum also suggested that in the event a firefighter is severely disabled during their time as a volunteer, the firefighter should continue to receive five points toward their LOSAP for each month they are disabled and prevented from volunteering.

Lastly, the referendum proposed that active volunteer firefighters should be able to receive one point per public education class taught on fire safety up to a maximum of five points per reporting period.

Although this referendum was passed Tuesday night, the increase in costs will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2025. The board intends to include money to offset these costs in the 2025-2026 budget, said Mayor Bonnie Parente.

Michael Delury, the village treasurer, said the increase in LOSAP funding will only result in an estimated additional $25 to each resident’s taxes.

Village of East Williston board members also introduced a tentative 2024-2025 village budget on March 11, for which there will be a public hearing in April.
The proposed 2024-2025 budget is $3,055,253, according to Delury. The reserve fund balance is projected to be $357,570.

The budget represents a 2.056% increase in the tax levy from last year, which is under the tax cap.

The main reason for tax increases this year is a spike in medical and health premiums for the village, a financial stressor many villages and school districts across the county are facing, according to village officials.

The cost of medical insurance premiums in the village for 2023-2024 was originally projected to be $125,000. This cost increased to $166,000 in January due to an unforeseen rise in rates.

Now, insurance costs are estimated to increase again to $299,000 in 2024-2025, according to Mayor Bonnie Parente.

Board members emphasized that the village has stayed below the tax cap for the past 11 years.

The 2023-2024 budget represented a 1.039% increase in the tax levy from the previous year.

The public hearing for the budget is set for Monday, April 1 at 7 p.m. in the East Williston Village Hall.

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