The Chelan Fire and Rescue District 7 Commissioners balanced their budget for 2016, keeping aging apparatus’ in mind during a workshop held on Wednesday, Feb. 3.
In an effort to keep up with aging engines, the commissioners proposed taking $50,000 from a general reserve account and moving it into the apparatus reserve to help save for anticipated costs in the future.
“We’re trying to put money away because we’ve got like four engines that over the next several years could become obsolete,” said Commissioner Tom Peters. “We need to have funds to be able to purchase replacements [in the future].”
With this addition to the apparatus reserve, the district hopes to total about $144,000 by the end of 2016.
Peters said he has no interest in raising taxes in the community, and hopes the district can continue to budget and save for future costs.
In order to balance the budget, the commissioners also had to cut a stipend for an extra summer work position the district planned to have, but had not had the opportunity to incorporate.
“We have one individual who works with each of our three shifts that we pay through a stipend program,” Peters said. “They are not full-time union firefighters, but they are people that are being paid a certain amount per shift.”
Peters said the idea was to have an additional person for the summer, but commissioners cut the extra position and saved about $10,000 in doing so. The district will still continue stipends for other volunteer positions as planned.
In order to preserve the stipend program, commissioners slimmed down capital improvements because they agreed the stipends were a valuable part of the district.
“I think the stipend people really provide a management technique that is worth its cost,” said Commissioner Bob Gervais. Commissioners agreed that if the stipend program were cut, volunteers would leave and find positions elsewhere.
Funds allocated to the purchase of additional Automated External Defibrillators (AED’s) for the brush trucks, as well as for Chief Tim Lemon and Captain Evan Woods’ vehicles were also cut, leaving the commissioners brainstorming ways to raise the funds through community foundations.
The board also discussed the funds set aside for the purchase of back-up generators for the fire stations, in the event of a power outage and settled on about $3,000 for other options until the district could do more research.
“Sooner or later we’ve got to do a lid lift just to maintain operations,” Lemon said after the board continued discussions about the future of the district. “If we ever want dormitories in our satellite stations to improve response times, that’s not something we’re going to do out of this general fund. It is going to have to come from bonds, special levies or lid lifts.”
The board agreed that asking voters to raise taxes or to “lift” the levy lid by increasing the tax rate would not be ideal, but it is ultimately up to the community to decide what they want and need.
“Sometime between 2016 and 2018 we’re going to have to go to the voters,” Lemon said. “I think we’ve done really good at keeping our revenues tight and doing what needs to be done to extend that out. Ten years without a lid lift is pretty good.”
Completion dates were also set for 2016’s goals and objectives, and will be up for approval by the board at the next fire commissioners meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 4 p.m.
(By Kaitlin Hetterscheidt)