Fire district unveils draft of 2010 budget

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Paid employees expected to get 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase

By Vicky Gits

The 2010 budget includes $200,000 to help with the transition to a state-of-the-art narrow-band (VHF) radio system and an unspecified amount to pay for a temporary, contract project manager to oversee the work.

The final version of the 2010 fire district budget will be unveiled at the next regular meeting of the board of directors at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at fire district headquarters, 1802 Evergreen Parkway. The meeting will start an hour earlier than usual to allow time for questions from the public.

Board members Charles Simon, Chick Dykeman, George Kling and George Goldbach were present at Tuesday’s meeting. Jeff DeDisse was absent.

In 2010, fire district revenues from property tax are expected to increase slightly by 0.4 percent. But revenues from vehicle taxes will be down about 20 percent, resulting in a net decrease in total revenue of 2.4 percent.

Total revenue is projected to be $4.127 million in 2010, compared with $4.23 million in 2009.

Money to fund the fire department activities is generated largely by a property tax mill levy consisting of 9.348 mills on homes in the special district.

Under the 2010 budget, the district expects to distribute a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase to its 32 full-time employees and four part-time employees. The amount to be contributed to the volunteer pension fund goes up by $36,000, or 24 percent.

The number of full-time employees is one less than last year, due to the board’s decision in September to eliminate the communications manager job and consolidate it with the EMS manager job.

The biggest projected expense item, salaries and wages, is 6 percent lower at $1.096 million, mostly due to the elimination of the communications manager position, which earned about $67,000 a year.

Another major expense is $470,000 that goes into the emergency medical services account to compensate for services that are billed but never paid for. (The budget showed $450,000 in 2009.) Most emergency services departments in the state are highly subsidized due to the difficulty of collecting payment for ambulance and medical services.

Total ambulance billing is expected to be $1.1 million in 2010, or about $50,000 more than in 2009.

The district budgeted $10,000 in 2010 for May elections.

Some other large items scheduled for 2010 include repairing the fire alarm system in Station No. 2 and the administration building on Evergreen Parkway ($20,000). The system that was installed when the headquarters was built still works but has several major flaws, said Fire Marshal Frank Dearborn. It is also very expensive and difficult to repair.

Fire Chief Garry DeJong asked for four heart monitors ($120,000) for the ambulances and AEDs, or heart defibrillators, for the administration building ($10,000).

Other items are a new clock for communications ($10,000), dispatch backup recovery ($10,000), and radio ($75,000).

Money from 2009 that will carry forward into 2010 includes $60,000 for a voting system, $25,000 for establishing interoperability, and $50,000 for the narrow-band radio system.

The biggest item in the capital expense list is $200,000 to pay for the upcoming transition to narrow-band communications, for which the district has already obtained a grant worth $711,000 from the Urban Area Security Initiative, part of the Homeland Security Department.

DeJong is also asking the board of directors to approve a contract project manager on a temporary basis to manage the grant, which is expected to take more than year to implement. The salary is to be determined.

DeJong is still in the process of deciding whether to replace the part-time HR person with another employee or something else, such as an HR consulting firm.

The chief also asked for $150,000 to buy a new chassis (engine and wheel assembly) for the No. 21 ambulance, which has 157,000 miles on it. The old chassis will be converted to a pump truck or a brush truck using in-house resources

The $300,000 purchase of a 5,000-gallon tanker truck was paid for out of the 2009 budget.

Employee total (32 full-time four part-time)

(numbers in parentheses refer to total)

Fire chief

Administrative specialist

Facilities supervisor


Office manager

Fire inspector

Training coordinator

Public educator

EMS chief/communications manager

Fire marshal

Fleet manager

Emergency dispatcher (9)

Paramedic (12)

Total full-time: 32

Part-time employees

IT coordinator (24 hours)

Administrative specialist, part-time

Finance director

HR (discontinued position)

Total part-time: 4


Volunteer firefighters (80)