Monday, April 21, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

County Fire needs change

By
From page A4 | October 29, 2012 | 4 Comments

For an agency with a $10 million budget finding a $1.6 million shortfall is a big ouch. It is 16 percent of the operating budget. The agency with the deficit is the El Dorado County Fire Protection District, one of the biggest in the county. It’s also worrisome that the board president attributed some of the shortfall to a bookkeeping boo-boo.

The county auditor, however, was not aware of any accounting errors by the fire district. But he did note that the district has been spending more than it takes in for about three years, which indicates the chief and the board didn’t act with alacrity when property tax revenue began sliding as the recession hit and foreclosures swamped housing prices.

In the face of the $1.6 milion deficit the board asked for concessions from the fighters union. Friday the union announced an agreement. The firefighters will pay all of their 9 percent of employees’ pension costs. We commend the union for agreeing to this. That is five years ahead of the deadline outlined in the new state pension reform legislation. Additionally, the union members will be paying 20 percent of their health care costs. This brings them in line with private industry.

The firefighters put the value of this at a 11-15 percent take-home pay reduction.

The district and the union have set the standard. We urge other fire agencies to follow this example.

How much of a dent this will make in the deficit will become clearer at the district’s next board meeting. The customary cure for financial problems is to hire a financial officer. Generally speaking fire chiefs know how to run a fire department, but don’t necessarily know how to read a financial statement and get down in the weeds of a budget.

Instead of a financial officer, we would suggest instead a chief administrative officer who would have overall responsibility for the bill payments, contracting, Workers’ Compensation, employee relations, payroll and budget preparation. The chief would be responsible for supervising firefighters, equipment, training and staffing assignments.

One way or another the El Dorado County Fire Protection District needs to upgrade its financial supervision.

Mountain Democrat

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Discussion | 4 comments

  • Barbara RogersOctober 27, 2012 - 9:43 am

    Great editorial Mt. Democrat. As usual you have presented the facts. One must wonder if the taxpayers of EDCFPD will sit up and pay attention. I retired from EDCFPD and it is my opinion that nobody was looking at the books for years. They were writing checks but they were not balancing their figures with the County reports. This is pretty basic math people. I blame the support staff and the Chief for not having fiscal oversight. It is clear that the District gave raises and paid little attention to the housing crisis. SPEND, SPEND AND SPEND IT ALL. Now it is gone, all of it. They drained every dime out of every account they could to cover this 1.6 million dollar shortfall. Everyone had their hands out and they all took the raises. One has to ask, is it really about protecting the public or is it just about money? Time to clean house from the top down. Someone needs to step up and take responsibility for this deficit. Wonder who it will be?

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  • Karl ElzeOctober 29, 2012 - 11:50 am

    While mistakes do happen from time to time, a 1.6 mil. boo-boo is no Joke. To sit there and tell other agencies, "That maybe they should take notice"is a little harsh. The other agencies are not the ones w/ a 1.6 mil. boo-boo. Criticize the dep't w/ the boo-boo not the other dep't that are doing their jobs the right way. Maybe a dep't of that size(w/ the 1.6 mil. deficit) should have done their job by hiring an accountant. From what I've read and heard, ED Co. FD, has done a Piss Poor job, managing and running the Dep't (No Disrespect to the FFs, Eng, and Cap'). Just maybe its time for a complete Board remake.

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  • Donna BrussOctober 29, 2012 - 4:54 pm

    On Nov. 1st El Dorado County Fire will also change staffing at station 72 in Cool. Station 72 will be staffed by only 1 captain and 1 apprentice...but NO paramedics!. An EMT is NOT the same as a medic. EMT's cannot start IV's not provide any cardiac meds should someone suffer from a heart attack. The residents of Cool need to have medics your life may depend on it! Of course nothing has need said to the residents. Shame on El Dorado County Fire

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  • Barbara RogersOctober 29, 2012 - 10:32 pm

    Here are the hard facts people, EDCFPD has been spending every dime and more for years. In fact in the 2008/09 F.Y. total revenue were $10,957,370 and the district spent $10,610,673, now in 2009/10 revenues were $9,996,533 and the district spent $10,581,163, putting them in the hole to the tune of $584,630. In 2010/11 the revenues were $11,898,172 and they spent $12,935,049, a deficit of $1,036,877. Is anyone listening, does anyone care about what has been going on? This is criminal. I think the grand jury needs to do an investigation into this. Everyone was asleep at the wheel, from the support staff, to the Chiefs and I will even place blame on the county auditor's office for not stepping up to the plate and stopping this bleeding of funds. The current deficit is not a mistake, they have been over spending for years. I am going to find out the truth.

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