SHFAD budget increases 1.38 percent in 2010-11

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District’s approved 2010-11 budget includes few changes from 2009-10.

The budget was approved in May by the district’s Budget Committee. The Board of Directors will decide whether to adopt the budget this month.

The budget increases by $28,912 to $2.134 million, or 1.38 percent, from the 2009-10 budget.

The primary factors are contracted step, cost-of-living salary increases and associated benefits, said Fire Chief Mike Beaver.

Personal services, including salary and benefits, increases by $31,000 to $1.19 million. The increase includes a 12-percent increase, $19,000, in insurance costs.

“Very few of the lines have any change to them,” Beaver said, although next year, the district will face a 5- to 6-percent increase in Public Employees Retirement System rates.

“As the district enters the next decade, there are many positive areas to reflect on from the past one,” Beaver said. “First of all, we are at full staffing levels on both the volunteer and paid rosters.”

Fleet status is the best it has been in department history, Beaver said. The equipment purchased by the 2006 bond measure helps provide good insurance ratings and lower rates for the community.

“The current downturn in the economy has had an impact on this district as well as all public agencies,” Beaver said, noting that call volumes have decreased slightly dating back to November 2008.

“It’s my opinion that this drop in call volume is directly related to the increase in the unemployment rate,” he said. “As citizens have lost employment, they’ve lost their health insurance benefits, resulting in fewer calls for EMS service.”

One challenge facing the district is a 2013 mandate by the Federal Communications Commission that all emergency service agencies nationwide have narrowband communication equipment in place, Beaver said. The intent is to improve interoperability among responders and increase the number of radio frequencies.

The district is attempting to secure funding for the 2013 radio standard by participating in a regional grant opportunity for Linn County fire departments through the Firefighters Assistance Program, Beaver said. If not successful, the department will have to look elsewhere for funding.

The department is finishing the first year of a five-year master plan, which includes the updating and addition of standard operating guidelines for emergency response and day-to-day operations, additional training and certification for staff and future personnel and equipment considerations, Beaver said. The board is proactive and recognizes the needs of a changing community, he said.

“We feel having a five-year plan in place with identified goals will help meet the district’s and community’s needs for years to come,” Beaver said. “Despite the recent downturn in our economy, Sweet Home is growing; and with that growth needs

change for Sweet Home and the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District. I feel we will see an increase in population and home sales in Sweet Home with the addition of the new medical school and veterans’ hospital projects in Lebanon.”

Within the budget, the district is budgeting $356,000 in its carryover from 2009-10, which pegged the number at $400,000.

Tax revenues are budgeted at $977,000, up from $892,000. FireMed fees will continue to provide about $540,000. The district budgeted less in payments for back taxes, $41,000, down from $53,000.

The administrative division is budgeted at $1.093 million, up from $1.079 million. It includes the fire chief, three battalion chiefs. The ambulance division is budgeted at $856,000, down from $835,000 and includes six paramedics and interns. The fire division is budgeted at $185,000, down from $192,000.

The equipment reserve fund includes $195,000 in cash carryover, down from $300,000. The budget also transfers $65,000 into the fund to purchase an ambulance on the district’s regular two-year cycle.