The one-year budget for fiscal year 2012-13 calls for the county to spend $4.78 million for Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and $9.9 million for Sierra Fire.
“The budgets adopted today will establish a strong financial foundation for a sustainable level of service for the future. Our budgets match service capability to financial capacity, which will result in a sound financial future,” said Fire Chief Charles Moore. “As of July 1, the new Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District will be comprised of 115 full-time employees, 120 volunteer firefighters and 60 logistical volunteers. Eleven career stations and 13 volunteer stations will serve the citizens of the district.”
Some residents still are not clear about whether the county’s decision to divorce from the city of Reno and attempt to provide fire service with fewer crew members at each station is a prudent move.
One resident who spoke Tuesday at the county commissioners’ regular meeting called for the county to provide a side-by-side analysis of spending, comparing each line item to that of what the county spent last year to provide the same service with more manpower using Reno firefighters.
Commissioner Kitty Jung, who was the only member of the commission to disagree with the plan when first decided, agreed with the resident. Kurt Latipow, fire services coordinator for the county, said the side-by-side comparison was due to be completed by the end of Tuesday.
Commissioner David Humke wanted to include other aspects in the analysis to prove that the county was saving money by divorcing its services from Reno. The county is asking for 6.75 percent in taxes from county taxpayers in the Truckee Meadows, an increase that would not have occurred if the consolidation was not made.
“There was a discussion about the 6.75 percent we have to experience as a tax increase that is far more than double that in the area of 15 percent,” Commissioner Humke said. “I would like to see those costs built in that side-by-side ledger. I want to see the real cost of what we’re escaping.”
Moore said during his report Monday in the Commission Chambers: “This financial sustainability is due to the strong, conservative financial leadership of the district’s Board of Fire Commissioners with the tremendous assistance from our Firefighters’ Union IAFF Local 3895 and Chief Officers Association. These employees stepped forward and saved the Consolidated Fire District $2.5 million per year due to negotiating minimum three-person engine companies and salary levels consistent with regional parity.
“These employees put public safety above themselves and were equally dedicated to insuring fire stations were kept open, as was the Board of Fire Commissioners,” Moore said.
Federal minimum standards call for at least a three-man crew be staffed at a fire station. However, three-man crews cannot enter a burning building if there is no confirmed victim inside. In such cases, freighters must wait for more personnel to arrive before entering. In the meantime, they can take alternate measures to ensure the fire does not catch neighboring properties on fire.
When the consolidation was in place, stations were staffed with four-man crews, which many felt were safer in the event of a fire.
The TMFPD/SFPD Consolidated Fire District budget is $21,250,141 and includes 24-hour, seven-days-a-week staffing for 11 career fire stations, and 13 volunteer fire stations servicing all areas of the fire district, including Caughlin Ranch, Windy Hill, Verdi and Hidden Valley. The budget was based on the Board of Fire Commissioners’ March 27 decision to implement an alternative plan for a TMFPD/SFPD consolidated fire district after the county could not come to a joint agreement with the city of Reno to jointly provide automatic aid. Reno has pulled out of providing auto aid to the county.
The decision established a tax rate of 54 cents per $100 of assessed value for both the fire districts. This is an increase of approximately 2 percent, or 6.87 cents, in the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District — a $24 per year increase in the average property tax bill for fire service.
The tax rate for SFPD changed from 52 cents to 54 cents per $100 of assessed value for a less than 1 percent increase in the average property tax bill. Due to a decline in assessed valuation, however, it is anticipated the average tax bill will still experience a decrease even with the increase in the districts’ tax rates.
The Fire Services budget includes more funding for volunteer programs, including $480,000 for a Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) Paging System, VFD Capital Improvement Program and the VFD Palomino Valley Fire Protection Well for water service for fires. It also includes seed money to establish a volunteer residence program for the first time in Washoe County.
“I am confident that as of July 1, there will be a promising new day for the TMFPD and SFPD. For more than 20 years, state and local governments in northern Nevada have tried to consolidate the two fire districts without success. Now, the Board of Fire Commissioners has set us on a course to consolidate fire service in the unincorporated area of Truckee Meadows to the betterment of our citizens we protect,” Moore said.
The budget includes paying for the district’s workers compensation and retiree health liabilities, wildland fire liabilities and funding for necessary capital improvement programs, fuels management programs and operational contingencies. The TMFPD/SFPD Consolidated Fire District is one of the largest firefighting forces in Nevada, excluding Clark County.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners agreed to allow the fire service to hire a logistics technician at an annual salary of $87,467. The technician will work at the support division on fire apparatus.