Kenner will put a millage on the November ballot to fund the fire department
The council voted unanimously on the measure to put a millage increase forward to voters.
KENNER (WVUE) - The Kenner City Council voted unanimously to approve putting forward a millage on the November ballot that the city said would generate $10.9 million annually to increase firefighter pay and maintain facilities and equipment.
The Kenner Fire Department is currently underfunded, with $6 million in the department’s budget coming from the city’s general fund.
Firefighters in Kenner start with an hourly pay of around $8.93.
“The millage they’re working under today doesn’t even come close to adequately funding this fire department,” said Kenner Mayor Michael Glaser. “I know it’s not the most popular thing for a first-year mayor to recommend the council to vote on and put it onto the citizens, more than doubling a millage for the fire service. But I think it’s needed.”
The current millage rate for the Kenner Fire Department is 7.4 mils, but the increase would bring the number to 18.2 mils.
“It’s much needed, and we’ll put the information out, exactly what they’re starting pay is going to be, what it’s going to do to the equipment,” Glaser said. “This tax must be passed, because if you start adjusting budgets to live within your means, unfortunately, it’s a big personnel cost that we’ll be having, police and fire.”
Kenner firefighters packed the room for Thursday’s council meeting, voicing their support for a millage increase that would, in part, help to address extremely low pay rates.
“Most people who know a firefighter, they have a second or third job. It should be something that is not a necessity to make ends meet,” said Matthew Hotard, President of the Kenner Firefighters’ Association and a 15-year veteran of the department. “Our department is very underfunded. Our starting pay is 8.93. Right now, this is, for us, it’s everything.”
A net increase of 10.8 mils is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s necessary if Kenner wants to maintain the fire service it has, Glaser said.
“The first campaign we had was to have these councilmembers vote yes to get this on the November ballot,” he said. “Now that we’ve got past that hurdle, we’ll sit down with the firemen and say, ‘Look, this is what this budget can sustain with your starting salary, benefits, retirement.”
Glaser said he has tackled several issues with the Kenner Fire Department, including paying off compounded interest of $1.4 million from a lawsuit settlement with the state Fire Department Retirement System.
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