The Village of Cambridge will draw its 2020 streets budget to zero to pay for fire and EMS this year.

The Village Board voted 4-1 on Feb. 25 to fully fund the $169,893 requested from the Cambridge Area Fire and EMS Commission, for fire and EMS service in 2020. Kris Breunig dissented and Paula Hollenbeck and Kathy Cunningham were absent.

To fully fund its portion of the fire and EMS budget, the Village Board on Feb. 25 voted to eliminate its 2020 streets budget. The board had previously approved $169,893 for streets.

“So, if we are going to do any street repair this year we are going to have to borrow for it?” Village Board member Ted Kumbier said.

“Yes,” Village Administrator Lisa Moen responded.

There was no further discussion.

The Village Board has changed course several times since last fall on whether to fully fund fire and EMS in 2020.

The Fire and EMS Commission’s 2020 budget, finalized in October, was about $888,000, up 6.7 percent from about $832,000 in 2019.

The commission doesn’t have taxing authority. Under a longstanding agreement, the boards of five municipalities — Cambridge, Rockdale and the Towns of Oakland, Christiana and Lake Mills – each include a portion of the cost in their annual budgets, based on their equalized values.

The share of the 2020 fire and EMS budget requested to be funded by the five municipalities was about $677,500, up 15.45 percent from about $572,800 in 2019. Cambridge’s contribution represents about 25 percent of that. In 2020, the remaining equalized value breakdown was 49 percent for the Town of Oakland, 20 percent for the Town of Christiana, 3.5 percent for the Town of Lake Mills and 2.5 percent for the Village of Rockdale.

The portion requested of Cambridge in 2020 was an increase of about $27,200, or 19 percent, over the $142,200 it gave in 2019.

However, the 2020 village budget the Cambridge Village Board adopted on Nov. 26 allocated only about $144,800 for fire and EMS. That was an increase of just $2,600, or 1.8 percent, over 2019. Among the reasons Village Board members objected to fully funding the commission’s 2020 request, was the significant amount it was proposing to put into reserves for future expenses like fire trucks and other equipment.

Hollenbeck said in statement at the time that Cambridge’s Audit & Finance Committee felt it was important to adopt a budget that didn’t fully fund fire and EMS “to bring a focus on the commission’s budgeting process which we feel, as it is currently executed, is unfair to the Village. It is our hope that we have put a spotlight on this activity and that future budgets will be developed more collaboratively.”

“There are many services the village needs to provide to our community. Over the past two years the commission has presented budgets that have resulted in other services being cut to pay for the commission’s budget. While the commission provides valuable services, they are not the only services important to our community. I look forward to the commission stepping up to this challenge and understanding the need to team with the communities they serve rather than dictating to them,” Hollenbeck wrote.

The Village Board changed course in December, however, saying that it would, in fact, fully fund the entire amount requested from the Fire and EMS Commission for 2020. However, the board said that would mean funding no village street repairs in 2020.

The Village Board said in December that it would amend its 2020 budget in the spring, when the Fire and EMS Commission’s first quarterly bill arrived, to fund fire and EMS rather than streets.

“We have received our first our quarterly invoice from the Fire and EMS Commission based on the full amount they require,” Moen told the Village Board on Feb. 25. Covering that expense would necessitate cutting the entire streets budget, she said.

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