An administrative reorganization of the district office was approved by the board of El Dorado County Fire Protection District at its Nov. 21 meeting.
Recommended by Chief Mike Hardy, the chief prefaced his remarks by noting that in the face of spiraling costs and declining revenue, the district had taken a number of measures to cut costs, including reducing the number of chief officers and negotiating concessions from the union to increase what members pay for retirement and health care.
He recommended that further administrative cost savings could be had by eliminating certain positions, beginning with the information technician. Saying the district never needed a full-time person in that position, Hardy proposed instead to outsource the function to a contractor.
The position of accounting technician was also eliminated with Hardy noting that while the person in that position was responsible for all district budget and accounting work, there was never any requirement the individual have an accounting background.
That fact may have contributed to several sizeable financial mistakes, totaling almost $713,000, being made in addition to almost $700,000 in funds improperly moved between accounts. Currently the position is vacant as the person who previously held the job is on leave. Instead, Hardy proposed having CPA Michael Ocenosak of Terrie Prod’hon handle those fiscal duties.
When questioned what Ocenosak is costing the district, Hardy said they are paying him, on average, under $1,000 a month.
The salary range for the accounting technician was $49,982 to $61,172.
Hardy also recommended reducing the hours of the office receptionist from 40 to 24 hours a week, saying a full-time employee was not needed.
To handle some of the administrative duties of the accounting technician plus board duties, Hardy proposed establishing a position of administrative aide/board clerk. An existing employee has already been performing these duties, he said, and would be permanently assigned to the position.
Hardy estimated the cost savings of all these measures at $140,000, not including the cost of outsourcing IT services.
In other actions, the board held a first hearing of the updated 2013 California Fire Code. A second public hearing will be held next month before it is voted on by the fire board. It will then go to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors for ratification and last to the California Building Standards Commission where it will be filed and go into effect.
The board also voted in support of a resolution drafted by the Fire Advisory Committee. The resolution supports action taken by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors at its Sept. 24 meeting to approve a two-year, $1.7 million fiscal patch to assist rural fire districts until a permanent solution to funding can be found.
Hardy said the same resolution was being presented to the boards of all the fire districts and although it doesn’t commit them to do anything specific, it does obligate them to participate in developing a long-term solution to their revenue problems.
Hardy added that Supervisor Ron Briggs and other supervisors are frustrated with the fire districts coming again to the county for a handout. They are willing to go along for now, but if the districts don’t get their act together, cut costs and identify revenue streams, they are going to be in trouble, he said.
Noting that EDCFPD wasn’t one of those looking for a fiscal patch, Director Mark Johnson commented that, in fact, the district hadn’t received any aid to fire money since 1991. But without county money, many of the other districts may go back to a fire chief and volunteers because they don’t have the money for professional firefighters, he said.
Hardy suggested that one option might be changing the percentage of property tax revenue that each district receives. However, the Board of Supervisors wants the fire districts to come up with solutions rather than do it for them, he said.
Related to that discussion was a report by Hardy on meetings of a revenue search committee. The district is looking at all aspects of increasing revenue, said Hardy, including benefit assessments, special taxes and potentially collecting a fee for different services performed. “We’re going to throw everything on the wall and see what sticks, along with cost-saving measures,” he said.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.