Massachusetts cities face budget cuts for fire departments

February 12, 2024

Nearly three dozen cities and towns affected by Massachusetts state budget reductions

Over thirty cities and towns across Massachusetts are set to receive less funding for their fire departments than initially anticipated, following a decision by Governor Maura Healey’s administration to eliminate nearly $2 million in local earmarks.

This move comes as part of broader budget cuts totaling $375 million, aimed at addressing an expected fiscal shortfall of $1 billion for the state.

The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) has identified that these reductions include approximately $1.68 million previously designated for local fire department initiatives.

PFFM President Richard MacKinnon expressed concerns in a letter to union leaders throughout the Commonwealth, noting, “The majority of these cuts are reducing local ‘earmarks’ by 50%.”

Impact on local fire departments and services

The budget cuts are widespread, affecting 33 municipalities including major cities like Boston, Everett, Quincy, and Worcester.

Specific examples of the cuts’ impact were highlighted by MacKinnon, such as the Easton Fire Department, which now stands to receive $50,000 for equipment purchases—half of what was initially promised.

Similarly, the Taunton Fire Department faces a $250,000 reduction in funds earmarked for fire station upgrades, from the originally planned $500,000.

MacKinnon urged local union representatives to engage with fire chiefs and elected officials to gauge the potential ramifications of these financial reductions on their members.

Furthermore, the PFFM has pledged to continue investigating the budget cuts and to advocate for the restoration of funding.

Affected initiatives include the Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Training Academy and a statewide cancer screening program for firefighters, both of which will now receive less funding.

Response and reactions to the budget cuts

The PFFM has been vocal in its criticism of the Healey administration’s decision, noting on X (formerly known as Twitter) that the organization did not endorse Healey in the last gubernatorial election.

Governor Healey, in a letter to the Legislature, defended the budget adjustments, emphasizing efforts to minimize the impact on the state’s residents and to safeguard investments critical to Massachusetts’ future.

The reaction among firefighters and local officials has been one of frustration, with many taking to social media to express their concerns over the prioritization of public safety.

Hanna Switlekowski, a member of the Sharon Select Board, underscored the importance of supporting public safety, especially in light of the community’s ongoing efforts to assist new residents.

FSJA Comment

The recent budget cuts announced by Governor Maura Healey’s administration present a complex challenge for fire departments across Massachusetts.

By reducing earmarked funds by approximately $1.68 million, the state aims to address a significant budget shortfall while attempting to shield its most vulnerable residents from adverse effects.

However, the decision raises questions about the balance between fiscal responsibility and the maintenance of essential public services, such as fire safety and emergency response.

As communities grapple with these reductions, the dialogue between fire departments, local officials, and state government will be crucial in navigating the impacts and ensuring the continued safety and well-being of Massachusetts residents.

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