BURRILLVILLE – The chairman of the Pascoag Fire District Board of Commissioners cited improvements to business practices and finances this week in his bid for reelection for a second three year term.
Christopher Toti has led the fire commission since May of 2019, when he was appointed to replace Robert Keable. In seeking voter support during an election later that same year, he said his hope was to increase efficiency in the Pascoag Fire District, and bring personnel and fiscal management procedures to the village department.
This week, the chairman said the board has done just that under his leadership, pointing to improvements that include implementing a records-keeping system, establishing business procedures, addressing pension problems and retiring around $1 million in district debt.
“We continue to provide a good service, essentially without raising taxes. We’ve just become more efficient about how we spend money,” Toti said. “There’s still a little work to be done.”
Toti, who holds master’s degrees in public administration and secondary education, has served for 27 years in the US Army, and currently serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Rhode Island Army National Guard. Previously, he taught social studies for several years at high schools in Blackstone-Millville, North Providence and Burrillville, and also worked for the State of Rhode Island at Zambarano Hospital as a food service supervisor.
He’s served as vice chairman, and then chairman, of the board for the Pascoag Utility District Board of Commissioners, and was also a member of the Burrillville Zoning Board of Review.
A volunteer firefighter for 13 years in Pascoag, Toti noted that over the past three years, the district has utilized a finance subcommittee to review all purchases, and implemented a full records-keeping system supervised by a part-time business manager with help from two administrative aides, a treasurer and a computer consultant.
“We’ve implemented a whole process from start to finish,” Toti said. “There is a physical file for all purchase requests. It’s all right there.”
He notes that the district’s budgeting process has also undergone transformation, leading to added layers of both efficiency and accountability.
“We have a through budget review,” he said. “There are checks and balances. We fixed budget issues.”
Among the issues addressed in recent years was a volunteer pension system the had not been funded since 2008, which is now being funded. The commission has also authorized upgrades to equipment, both for training and fire suppression, including the district’s fleet of vehicles, with a brand new rescue now on the way to be paid for in cash.
Even with those expenses, Toti notes that PFD has gone from roughly $1.3 million in debt to around $220,000, and taxes went up only two cents per thousand over the past four years.
He said that was made possible through consolidation of debt, with changes that allowed the district to pay off trucks early, refinance expenses and collection back taxes.
The commission now has a plan in place to replace equipment every five years and has created a framework for those to come. He said he hopes to leave the district in a position to pay cash for items going forward and so as not to incur any new debt.
Toti credits those around him for much of the work that’s been done.
“I always build a team around me of qualified people,” he said. “The biggest goal is to put Pascoag Fire District on firm financial footing. If they follow that plan, we’ll continue to go forward years down the road.”
The annual meeting will be held at the Pascoag Fire Department’s Hose Company #2 at 141 Howard Ave. starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 12. Early voting will take place at the Pascoag station from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but those votes will be limited to the election of officers, and not the annual budget. Read more about the meeting here.
NRI NOW is offering candidates for the commission the chance to publish information on their platform and reasons for running. All are invited to send relevant information and a headshot to email@example.com.