SHFAD budget includes increases in personnel, material costs

Sean C. Morgan

The proposed $2.6 million 2017-18 budget for the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District shows an increase of $53,000 over the current budget.

Fire Chief Dave Barringer on April 18 presented a proposed budget to the SHFAD Budget Committee that will take effect July 1 following approval by committee members and adoption by the Board of Directors.

Within the budget, personnel costs increase by $84,000, to $1.622 million, Barringer said in his annual budget message. Material and service costs are decreasing by $6,050, to $374,450, and capital outlays are decreasing by $5,400, to $24,600.

The district will increase its unappropriated ending fund balance by $15,000, to $75,000. The ending fund balance is not spent. Rather, the funds are carried over into the next budget year.

The district had an actual ending fund balance of $575,605 in 2015-16.

During 2016-17, the district avoided a past practice of borrowing money temporarily to provide cash flow during the first four months of the fiscal year – until November when it begins receiving property tax revenue.

The district will not borrow money in 2017-18 either, Barringer said, but a line of credit is set for $250,000.

FireMed and ambulance has a budgeted increase of $25,000, while the district’s call load has remained steady.

In the administrative division, increases in costs include retirement rates. For Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees, costs increased by 31.58 percent. The rate for the third tier, Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan, increased by 23.9 percent.

Health insurance premiums increased by 3.86 percent.

The administrative division’s total budget will grow by $21,689, to $1.215 million.

In the ambulance division, the Tier 2 retirement rate increased by 5.69 percent, and the OPSRP rate increased by 3.77 percent.

Total, the ambulance division will increase by $57,871, to $1.135 million.

The total budget for the fire division will decrease by $7,100, to $152,000. In that budget, personnel costs increase by $1,700, while material and service costs decrease by $6,800 and capital outlays decrease by $2,000.

Barringer said the remaining bond proceeds, approved by voters in November, have been placed in an equipment and building reserve fund, with $879,000 budgeted to be spent in the 2017-18 fiscal year, leaving $498,103 for future expenditures, including a new ambulance in three years.

“As the district enters the 2017-18 fiscal year, our biggest areas of focus are bond priorities and continuing to maximize our efficiency. We continue to prioritize maintenance on our aging fleet as well as focusing on our facility maintenance and upkeep.”

The district has applied for a grant to pay for additional personnel and another grant to replace self-contained breathing apparatus. If the grant is unsuccessful, the bond will pay for the SCBA gear.

The district’s current SCBA gear is 15 years old and must be replaced, Barringer said.

He noted that insurance ratings throughout the district are improving within seven miles of each of its four stations and two of the Lebanon Fire District’s stations, areas where the district has been able to demonstrate an effective water supply.

“We are continuing to work on pre-fire plans and have initiated business inspections within our community to improve fire safety,” Barringer said. “We have researched ways to address our needs and are making changes to ambulance billing and motor vehicle accident billing and have acquired a new bond. Thus far, we have seen an increase in ambulance revenue, which has helped to offset some of our financial challenges.

“Our staff has done an amazing job of reclaiming ownership of this district. We have many individuals with different talents and gifts, and they are taking the time to use them. We are very blessed to have wonderful personnel working here.”

The Budget Committee will next convene at 7 p.m. on May 16 at the Fire Hall to consider approval of the budget, which will then go before the board for a public hearing and adoption.