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Fire board approves $4.1 million budget for 2009

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Tanker truck to cost $400,000

By Vicky Gits

At its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 19, the five-member board of directors voted 5-0 to approve the 2009 budget for the Evergreen Fire Protection District.

The final version of the document outlining how the district is to spend $4.1 million was virtually the same as the one presented at a public hearing Nov. 12.

Property tax revenue is expected to be $3.6 million in 2009, or the same as budgeted for 2008, with the possibility there might be another $43,000 in tax revenue based on the assessor’s most recent estimate.

However, any increase in property tax revenue in 2009 is expected to be offset by a $25,000 reduction in interest income on investment money, due to the prevailing decline in interest rates. Fuel prices also are expected to rise to $65,000 from $43,000 this year.

The major projected expense is expected to be $400,000 for a new tanker truck, capable of delivering between 1,500 and 3,000 gallons in one load. The department currently owns six tanker trucks. The new tanker will be positioned at Station 1 (downtown Evergreen), allowing the department to put an older tanker into a station that needs one, possibly Station 7 at Floyd Hill, said Fire Chief Garry DeJong.

The tanker funds come out of the apparatus replacement fund, which stands at $1.5 million. The budget anticipates a $375,000 contribution to the apparatus replacement fund in 2009, about the same as in 2008.

The chief has targeted the radio system for a $135,000 upgrade in 2009 but warned Nov. 19 there is a possibility that the future investment will be more significant. In 2009, tower maintenance is going up to $50,000 to pay for a better service provider, from $25,000 budgeted for 2008.

The strategic capital fund (hardware, tools, building and vehicle improvements) allocation is $345,000 in 2009. Of that amount, $251,000 is budgeted as follows: $135,000 is to pay for the new radio; $28,000 for tools; $35,000 for building improvements; and $53,000 for vehicle improvements.

The number of department employees in 2009 is budgeted at 38, consisting of 33 full-time and five part-time employees. (The total includes a new human resources manager on a temporary basis for six months.)

The 2008 budget paid for 37 paid staff positions, the same as in 2007. (In 2007 two of the 37 staff positions were paid on a consultant basis.)

In 2008 the department added a part-time IT coordinator job at 16 hours a week, which is actually cheaper than having a technician work on a project basis, as was the case before, DeJong said.

Employees received a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase in 2007 and 2008. Merit awards were budgeted at $34,590 in 2008, compared to $37,000 in 2009, for all employees other than EMS staff. Merit awards for the EMS staff were budgeted at $22,294 in 2008 and $17,365 in 2009.

The payroll includes a contribution of $150,000 a year to the volunteer pension fund supporting the 80 volunteer firefighters and $131,000 to the 457(e) plan, which is a tax-free benefit.

The report from the Fire and Police Pension Association shows a 19 percent decline in the value of the pension account to $3.3 million currently, down from $4.09 million for the nine months ended Sept. 30.

The ambulance service is expected to bring in $1.1 million in revenue at a cost of $1.57 million. The difference is partially offset by a $450,000 contribution, compared to $410,000 projected in 2008, which comes out of the general fund.

Other action

In other action at the Nov. 19 meeting, the board of directors passed two resolutions, one defining the investment philosophy and a resolution that simplifies the qualifications for the 457(e)(11) tax-free benefit plan for volunteer firefighters. The directors also approved a change in the compensation policy concerning merit awards.

Amendment to 457 Plan

The vesting requirement has been repealed and re-adopted to read the accrued benefits will be become vested one year AFTER the completion of the probationary year. In other words, vesting occurs effectively two years after the the firefighter joins the force, rather than one year, as was previously the case.

The old point system was rescinded and replaced with a provision saying volunteers who respond to 20 percent of the calls in a given year will qualify for participation.

Change to compensation philosophy

Under the previous statement of philosophy, a merit increase was regarded as an increase to the employee’s base pay going forward indefinitely. The new policy states, “Merit award is a one-time payment based on the employee’s performance appraisal that does not affect the employee’s base salary.”

Facts

Employee TOTAL (33 full-time; 5 part-time)

(numbers in parentheses refer to total)

Fire chief

Administrative specialist

Facilities supervisor

Mechanic

Office manager

Fire inspector

Training coordinator

Public educator

Communications manager (dispatch)

Deputy chief/EMS chief

Fire marshal

Fleet manager

Emergency dispatcher (9)

Paramedic (12)

Total full-time: 33

Part-time employees

IT coordinator (16 hours)

Administrative specialist, part-time

Finance director

HR manager

Pre-planner

Total part-time: 5

TOTAL 38

Volunteer firefighters ( 80 )

Next board meeting Dec. 19

The next meeting of the Evergreen Fire Protection District board is Friday, Dec. 19, at 8 a.m. at fire department headquarters, 1802 Bergen Parkway.