County Fire back in the black

By From page A1 | May 19, 2014

What a difference a year and a half has made to the El Dorado County Fire Protection District.

Faced with financial shortfalls that required it to use the Teeter Plan to get through the current budget year, the district is now projecting it will have a million dollars surplus to carry over to next year.

Hailing this turn of events at Thursday’s board meeting was EDCFPD Chief Mike Hardy who noted that a year and a half ago, the district was $1.2 million in debt and its board was considering either bankruptcy or declaring a financial emergency.

“At the time I asked the board to give me a year, and now a year later we are about ready to roll over $1 million,” Hardy said, as he went on to ask the board to approve a preliminary budget for 2014-15 as well as a three-year strategic plan.

The new budget projects revenues of $9.5 million and expenses of $8.5 million. Hardy said expenses are expected to be $676,615 less than in the current year budget and $2 million less than what was spent in the last two years. However even with a smaller budget, funds are allocated for additional firefighter staffing, a new roof for station 72 and increased spending for vehicle maintenance, staff development and to pay off unused vacation time.

The savings in this year’s budget and next are the result of a combination of factors including new contracts with employees and retirees that have reduced the district’s share of the cost of certain benefits. The temporary brown out of Coloma also helped. In addition, changes in staffing and elimination of several management and administrative positions have saved money.

The board also heard a presentation on a three-year strategic plan that Hardy said would be the cornerstone for securing the district’s future for the next 20 to 30 years.

Presented by Division Chief McVay and Captain Dutch, the plan calls for reallocating district resources, increasing staffing levels, rebuilding reserve funds, addressing municipal debt obligations in order to indemnify projected CalPERS rate increases, and maintaining a minimum reserve fund balance of 11 percent of district annual revenues with that amount eventually rising to 13 percent.

The strategic plan included projections of how those reserves are expected to grow as a result of changes to the union contract and the reorganization of the district. By 2014-15 they are expected to be between $1.65 to $1.7 million; by 2015-16 to be between $2.7 million to $2.76 million; and by 2016-17 to be between $3.3 million and $3.4 million.

However the district’s CPA, Michael Ocenosak, emphasized that the reserves are not for spending on operations, per se, but rather to replace expensive fire equipment, retire the debt on the Shingle Springs fire station and to provide for unpredictable events.

The board went on to approve the preliminary budget as well as voted to support the strategic plan.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

Dawn Hodson

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