By Rusty Bradshaw
The Sun City Fire District Board of Directors will consider the 2017-18 budget for adoption following a public hearing tomorrow.
The board meets 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 20 in the fire administration office, 18602 N. 99th Ave. The meeting is open to the public.
The district’s budget for next fiscal year was revealed for the first time during a special board of directors meeting May 9. Spending in the district’s general fund is expected to increase by $44,504 — a 0.4 percent increase. It is only the third time since the 2008-09 budget year district officials proposed a budget larger than the previous year.
“We are in pretty good shape financially for the coming year,” said Ron Deadman, Sun City assistant chief.
However, fire officials continue to find ways to save on expenses as a legislative funding reform does not seem likely, according to Mike Thompson, Sun City fire chief.
“The Legislature does not seem to want to help,” he told Sun City Posse members during their May 2 meeting. “They seem more interested in passing laws to push us toward mergers with other districts.”
To that end, district officials contracted with Gabe Buldra, district finance officer, to study the feasibility of merging the Sun City district with the Daisy Mountain Fire District.
“That may or may not happen; we are just studying it to see if it would be beneficial for both districts,” Mr. Thompson said.
Sun City and Daisy Mountain officials are participating in intergovernmental agreements for shared staffing, purchasing and ambulance billing, moves that are already showing some savings.
Sun City Fire District officials were expected to consider the budget for tentative adoption at their regular business meeting May 16. Results of that meeting were not available at press time.
Mr. Buldra said the 2017-18 budget is balanced — meaning revenues match expenses — and calls for $11.4 million in expenditures for fire department operations. That is slightly up from the 2016-17 budget of $11.3 million.
This is the first budget cycle in which the Sun City district has separate fire and medial budgets.
“This is a tight but balanced budget, and we are meeting all community needs,” Mr. Buldra said.
While district officials will lose a significant portion of revenue when the SAFER grant expires at the end of 2017, additional income from ambulance operations and budget savings will ensure the fire department does not experience a staffing shortage.
“We will only have six months of the SAFER grant left, but we will maintain all those positions,” Mr. Buldra said.
The SAFER grant funded 12 additional firefighters for a two-year period.
Line item increases in the budget proposal are 5 percent for tax revenue, 7.3 percent for personnel, 1.1 percent for administration, and 21.3 percent for fire prevention. Line item decreases include 30.2 percent in non-tax revenue (mostly the SAFER grant), 17.2 percent in buildings and equipment, 17.5 percent in training, 0.2 percent in communications and IT services and a whopping 86.5 percent in professional services.
“The decrease in professional services is the $499,000 we set aside for the unfunded PSPRS liability,” Mr. Buldra explained. “We won’t have that expense in the future because we will be paying the actual cost, which is built into the budget.”
District officials are seeing less repair and maintenance costs due to newer equipment having been purchased and the shared maintenance IGA, according to Mr. Buldra.
The general fund will also be the beneficiary of about $389,000 in additional funds transferred from the ambulance operations budget.
“The ambulance is operated as a profit, but those funds exceeding operating expenses will be transferred to the district general fund,” Mr. Buldra said.
The district’s ambulance budget is a bit misleading as it shows an increase in all line items. However, that is because the 2017-18 fiscal year will be the first full year of ambulance operations. Sun City began running its own ambulances in October 2016.
The ambulance proposed budget calls for $1.382 million in expenditures, with the same amount of projected revenue.