Excerpts from the woodstockindependent.com:

After working four months without a contract, Woodstock firefighters have ratified a new 3-year contract with the financially strapped Woodstock Fire/Rescue District. The contract was unchanged from the tentative agreement rejected July 6 by Woodstock Career Firefighters Local 4813.

But acceptance came after the fire chief and district board president met with union members to lay out a four-stage program for spending priorities.

Although pay increases are included in each year of the contract, firefighters have said they will forgo raises the first two years to help the struggling district. The most immediate impact of the new contract will be in reduced staffing for each shift, from 14 down to 12. A personnel shortage has forced the district to spend about $5,000 a day in overtime to meet the contractual obligation. Fire Chief Mike Hill said the new staffing model was scheduled to go into effect this past Sunday.

The union also adopted a resolution in support of a referendum to increase district revenues with a property tax increase, which would need voter approval. But district officials decided to delay the referendum until April to give them more time to inform the public about the district’s financial issues and the consequences if more revenue isn’t found to support fire and ambulance services.

The referendum, which had been placed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election, would bring in nearly $1.17 million a year more in property taxes. District officials figure that would mean an extra $60 a year for a single-family residence with a fair market value of $100,000.

Woodstock city officials, who already are paying the district’s $36,000 annual increase in fees from the new regional dispatching service, will consider additional assistance during a city council work session Sept. 13.

After voting to ratify the new pact, Local 4813 members said concessions they made in the contract should save the district about $750,000 over the next two years. In addition to the pay freeze, firefighters forfeited an education allowance, accepted a reduced uniform allowance, and forfeited a vacation day.

The union noted it had made concessions before. In 2016, firefighters agreed to a cut in staffing, took a 25 percent reduction in holiday pay, and increased their contributions to the insurance plan to help offset lost revenue when the village of Lakewood canceled an intergovernmental agreement for fire protection.