Facing a serious financial shortfall, the El Dorado County Fire Protection District board of directors voted to accept a revised budget at its Oct. 18 meeting.
Acting Fire Chief Mike Hardy reported that the district was $1.6 million in the red this year. In addition, the Joint Powers Authority ambulance service has a budget shortfall. To cover the deficits in both programs, $2.2 million was moved out of trust funds and capital improvement funds.
“It’s mind blowing to have this kind of a deficit,” said board member Tom Mahach.
Hardy said he would also be coming back at a future meeting with a plan for $1.1 million in operating budget savings for the next fiscal year. The fire district has an annual budget of approximately $10 million.
To rectify the problem, Courtial said they are in negotiations with the union. Tentative plans include reducing the number of administrative staff in addition to requiring employees to pay 9 percent of their PERS contribution and 20 percent of their health benefits.
“But all of this is still being negotiated,” said Courtial. ”This is one of the toughest things we’ve had to do.”
Board member Michael Dennis said the budget problems came to their attention several months ago when Joe Harn, El Dorado County auditor-controller, warned them that their budget figures didn’t add up and they needed a balanced budget.
The board said that in the past money had been put into hiring firefighting staff rather than professional accounting staff.
Earlier in the meeting, Capt. Paul Dutch, who is a firefighter with Station 17, read a prepared statement to the board in which he said he favored demotions rather than people being laid off. Dutch offered himself as the first person to make the sacrifice, saying he was willing to be demoted from captain back to engineer. At this he received a standing ovation from members of the audience and the board and a tearful hug from Courtial.
In other actions, the board approved promoting Hardy from acting chief to interim Chief.
As the interim chief, it was proposed that Hardy receive a 10 percent increase in salary. Some board members initially expressed reluctance to grant an increase. However, after discussing his additional duties, the board voted to grant him the 10 percent increase effectively immediately.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.