Coaldale Fire Chief Richard Marek says the bank account is at zero and part of the reason is that the fire company's been shorted from an annual budget allotment.

At Tuesday's Coaldale Borough Council meeting, Marek said the fire department received about $16,000 from what was a $20,000 borough budget item in 2012.

The same thing happened again in 2013, Marek said. In fact, Marek did the math to see where the situation stood.

"The difference is $8,944.88. We rely on that $20,000," he told council.

According to Marek, in 2011, the fire department received $19,000, which was a drop from one year earlier when the department received $20,183.

Marek questioned why the drop, especially for a volunteer fire department charged with protecting lives and property.

"When you budget $4,500 for code enforcement, they get it," he said.

Marek said the fire department paid $29,000 in expenses in 2012 and $27,000 as of August 2013.

The spending, he said, is for gear and other necessities. He provided an overview of the equipment and expenditures.

"These are vital. We have to have these things. Right now we have zero in our bank account."

Councilman Tom Keerans questioned the timing.

Why did it take two years to find out," Keerans asked.

Marek said part of the reason is that the department has a relatively new volunteer going over the figures in the same manner the borough itself had a new secretary/treasurer step in not long ago.

Solicitor Michael Greek advised council that monies received from tax millage put in effect specifically for fire protection must be used for that purpose.

Marek also mentioned the dynamics of insurance premiums, suggesting that firefighter volunteers shouldn't be penalized for something out of their control.

"It's a line item of $20,000. It's not our fault the government passed legislation that put your workers' compensation (insurance premiums) up," he said.

Council will review the situation.

After his presentation, Marek told THE TIMES NEWS that the department doesn't operate a social club. Instead, volunteers perform year-round fundraising to acquire resources.

The activities include a Chinese auction, fish fry events during Lent and spaghetti dinners.

They recently tried a Santa-themed activity but felt it wasn't as successful as some of the other efforts, he said.

Marek believes strong community support is vital in order to have the advantage of a skilled, well-equipped firefighting unit.