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Village of Red Hook eyes October vote to add to firefighter retirements

Oct 19, 2023

RED HOOK, N.Y. – Trustees expect to set an Oct. 24 date for a referendum on increasing contributions to qualified volunteer firefighter retirements from $500 to $1,200.

Plans to have the public vote during the November general election were turned down by the Dutchess County Board of Elections, Mayor Karen Smythe said during a Village Board meeting last week.

“The county Board of Elections does not run the village elections and therefore they cannot take the proposition from the village and put it on their (Nov. 7) ballot,” she said. “That was the original proposal, to do it all at the same time and a commissioner at the county Board of Elections called the state and asked.”

Symthe said the referendum is being planned in advance of the general election to avoid losing interest among voters.

“We’d like to do it before the end of the year because we’d like it to kick in starting in 2024,” she said. “We didn’t want to do it while early voting was happening because we thought that would add to the confusion and we want to do it close (to the general election) because there’s some buzz around and people are at least thinking about voting.”

Firefighters are eligible for the contribution when they participate in a combination of activities, which the state has designated as having various point values. Volunteers qualify if they accumulate 50 points in a calendar year.

Activities include taking training courses at up to 25 points, instructional courses under 20 hours in length each at one point per hour for a maximum of 5 points; courses that are between 40 and 100 hours at 15 points per course; courses that are over 100 hours at 25 points per course; drill at one point each that are at least 2 hours long for a maximum of 20 points; sleep-in or stand-by status at 20 points maximum; elected or appointed positions at up to 20 points; attendance at meetings at one point each session, and responding to fire and rescue calls at up to 25 points each.

Symthe said there were 18 volunteers eligible for contributions in 2022, with 75% of the cost covered by the town.

The 2023-24 village budget calls for $12,500 in total expenses for the length of the service program, with part of the cost covering an audit.

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