Volunteer firefighters in Byron and South Byron say they need more money to support their operations.
The Town of Byron board hasn't given either department a budget increase in three years.
Apparently, the two sides have been growing increasingly frustrated with each other.
Attorney Brad Pinsky, from Syracuse, who started representing the departments about a year ago, thinks there may be a way to resolve the disagreement.
Pinsky spoke to the town board at its meeting Wednesday night and walked away with an agreement for the board to appoint two members to study the issue. In addition, the fire departments promised to present a plan and spending priorities so the board better understands how its money is being allocated.
"I promise you, we'll come to you with our needs and not our wants," Pinsky said.
Each department receives about $68,000 annually from the town, yet each year the departments have an excess of $100,000 in operational expenses.
This budget deficit has forced the departments to turn increasingly to their own fundraising, which the firefighters say isn't how they should be spending their time.
"You've got to be concerned if your firefighters are out fundraising and not training and not fighting fires," Pinsky said.
Fundraising should be for extras, for wants, such as items for the fire hall that make it a more inviting place for recruits to hang out, said Chris Hilbert, president of the Byron Fire Department.
"Fundraising shouldn't be needed to put gas in a fire truck," he said.
Dave Garwood, another attorney with the same firm as Pinsky (all the firm does is represent fire departments), said firefighting is an essential local government service, but it's the only one in some communities that is expected to raise its own funds.
"When was the last time you saw a DPW worker on the side of the road with some chicken barbecue so they could afford to put gas in a DPW truck?" Garwood asked.
Town Supervisor Tom Felton said it's important for the board to better understand the needs of the firefighters, but he doesn't see how the town can take on another $60,000 in expenses without raising taxes.
"We share these very same concerns," Felton said, "but there are only 2,400 people in the town."
Funds for the fire departments are raised through a special tax levy and don't come out of the general fund.
One suggestion thrown out by Pinsky was for the town board to create a fire district, which the board can do on its own authority (no referendum vote is required).
The district would be run by a board of elected commissioners and would have the power to increase the fire tax if needed, and it would also oversee the budget for the two fire units (which would be consolidated into a single department, but remain separate fire companies).
Felton likes the idea of the fire district. It would put authority for fire services under the supervision of a commission that would likely understand fire operations.
"We're challenged to understand the needs of the fire department," Fenton said. "None of us are firefighters."
In order for the fire district idea to move forward, the fire departments will need to agree that is the best way to proceed and then present a plan to the town board.