Reading City Council reviews part of 2018 budget

Next review set for Wednesday

READING, Pa. - Reading City Council members reviewed three sections of the proposed 2018 budget Monday evening: fire, non-departmental, and agency fund.

Fire Chief William Stoudt Jr. reported slight increases in the uniform allowance for protective gear and new hires as well as for maintenance and repair, as the department’s equipment ages and requires more maintenance.

There was also an increase in conference training for EMS staff. Stoudt explained that it's becoming more challenging to recruit paramedics, so the department is attending conferences to try to recruit people.

There was also an $8,000 decrease in communications medical – the cost for EMS to communicate with hospitals – since hospitals have taken over that expense.

Stoudt said that when salaries and overtime are combined, there was only a 1 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.

Managing Director Glenn Steckman said the department is staying within the salary caps that were recently approved by City Council, which allows for 0-2 percent increases over five years.

"Everyone has sacrificed in this plan for a long time, and I just think we need to be cognizant of that," said Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr.

When Waltman asked about revenues from the fire department, Stoudt said the department is bringing in approximately $3 million per year.

"I just want to point out that this is not a growth revenue stream," Steckman said. 

He added that the city is satisfied with the collection rate and pointed out that many of the payments come from Medicare and Medicaid, which is less than what it would receive through insurance. Stoudt reminded council members that it is a service they're providing Reading residents.

The next budget meeting is set for Wednesday, November 1, when the council members will review self insurance, parking authority contribution, police, ethics board, charter board, equivalent annual cost (EAC), and the community development block grant (CDBG).

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