Fire Dept. Budget – Ouch

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I suggest the next budget cycle begin with a top to bottom financial review and perhaps an outside perspective could help. In Florida, fire department districts are self-governing and often fall under the radar for many of us. What prompted my attention is the $1310 for fire services on my condo tax bill ($72,000 for the building +/-) compared to the towns $415 (fair). In addition, personnel costs run over $167,000 average for the 64 full-time employees and with $9,000,000 in Reserves, we suddenly need a tax rate increase to “save” more for a new station. My quick review of other districts suggests there are cost options and potential for change. Perhaps more with less should be looked at and it is little comfort that the tax rate is below some imaginary maximum when property values are increasing that enable increasing budgets each year.

I do have some experience – in finance, studying the issue for large zoning cases and as a volunteer fireman. There is momentum in fire departments for young retirements, full benefits, full pensions and sticky staffing practices in a time when everyone lives longer, oil lamps are gone, buildings are sprinklered, fires are less frequent, buildings are still not “saved” when a fire does occur (fine with me) and public safety with traffic and para-medics represent the vast majority of the need. Perhaps a new delivery model can exist for our community.

I am appreciative of the service- but I also want it to be efficient and appropriate.

Doug Speirn-Smith
Fort Myers Beach