District Fire Commissioner Jonathan Sprouffske will be hosting a Question and Answer Session due to some of the recent publications regarding the Regional Fire Authority ballot issue
Monday, February 1, 2010
@ Tahoma Valley Golf Course
15425 Mosman Ave SW
Yelm, WA, 98597.
Mr. Sprouffske sent me a very informative e-mail exchange to share about several misconceptions of the Regional Fire Authority issue.
Dear Friends and Acquaintances,
Many of you know me, some of you may not. My name is Kevin Rademacher, and I am a Firefighter/Paramedic with East Pierce Fire and Rescue. I have been a firefighter for 22 years, professionally for 18 years. I have been a member of 5 different departments in those years, and have had the opportunity to witness and be a part of several variations of the same job: City Fire, Fire District, County District, and Military Fire Dept.
I am usually the proverbial fly on the wall type, preferring to keep my opinions to myself, but rarely missing a detail. At times, however, one must speak out on ones beliefs. This is one of those times.
My Brother in Fire, Steve Slater, recently sent an email [published in the Jan. 29th edition of the NVN] noting his reasons opposing the upcoming Yelm Fire RFA vote. I have much respect for Steve and his many contributions to the community, to his (our) church, and to two different Fire Districts. I feel obligated, however, to post an opposing view as to why the community MUST vote for Regional Fire Authority in the upcoming election. The simplest way to do this is to use Steves original email, and answer his concerns directly. Here goes
– Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 00:02:05 -0500
Subject: Oppose the Regional Fire Authority
Friends and Neighbors,
I am sending this to let you know why I oppose the Regional Fire Authority (RFA). Please read the enclosed letter and forward if you agree with me. This election time typically has a small turn out so a small few will decide this issue. It is more important than ever that you vote.
Thank for your consideration.
The Rest of the Story: Why I Dont Support the Regional Fire Authority
The Southeast Thurston Regional Fire Authority (RFA) is being proposed again in the February 2010 ballot. Not all the information is coming out and so Im writing this that the public may be better informed. First, this is the same initiative that you, the citizens, voted down in August. No changes have been made. I respect the citizens choice to turn down this initiative, thus telling me as your elected representative to find
Another choice, the city could have raised their tax to meet the financial levels of the fire districts and at a cheaper cost to the citizens. The city residents are paying around 60-70 cents on the thousand of assessed property value compared to the $1.50 the fire district citizens pay.
It is important to remind everyone that the City of Yelm has no Fire Department. The City contracts with the District to provide services for its citizens. This is a critical point. The City collects funds from the City citizens to pay for this service. Those citizens in the Yelm City limits currently pay only $.68 cents per $1000 of assessed valuation, compared with everyone else in the district that pays $1.50. The City paid the District $459,370 or 12.2% of the Districts total budget for contract services. This, despite the fact that a full 40.7% of the 2942 emergency calls responded to last year by the District were located in the City Limits. This disproportionate funding creates the situation of a few paying for the many. This must be rectified. The $1.50 rate is a Washington standard for many, and possibly most fire districts in the state, including my Fire District.…
– The proposal has the city reducing their tax by 30 cents (of the 60-70 cents) but then having an overall increase of $1.20 when they become part of the RFA. Why didnt the city reduce their tax by the whole amount that they were paying for fire service?
From a City source: By State Law, the City of Yelm can tax up to a maximum of $3.60 per $1,000 but is currently only collecting about $1.90. The maximum is reduced by $0.50 to $3.10 because of the current library measures that have previously been approved by the voters. If the Regional Fire Authority were to be approved the maximum the City of Yelm would be allowed to tax it’s residents would be reduced again by $1.50 and leave the City of Yelm with receiving a maximum of $1.60 per $1,000. As a result the city would collect the maximum amount of $1.60 which is $0.30 less than it currently receives.
In other words, the City has never given the full $.68 per $1000 it collected to the District in the first place. You read this correctly. The City has kept the difference since it began collecting the taxes, in order to pay for other city services. They will freely admit they cannot afford to loose this funding, or they will have a nasty budget shortfall. They have NEVER given the full $.68 to the District. The bottom line is City citizens pay other taxes for other city services, and the increase for this vote will be $1.20 per $1000 of assessed value for City Citizens ONLY, with the District getting $1.50 to fund its operations. It WILL NOT affect any current District Citizen…
– What are they going to do with the balance they are keeping? Proposing the most expensive plan is just wrong.
Again, the only beneficiary is the Fire District. This money is desperately needed to put boots on the ground or butts in the (fire) seats. Ill explain this later…
– The mayors recent article states that each district/city must pass this initiative. Thats wrong. This ballot will be decided by the total collective vote. So even if two of the voting communities reject the initiative, if there are enough passing votes collectively the initiative will pass and your individual districts will be no more.
This almost happened last time.
Correct. Majority rules here, as it should. This is the opportunity for District residents to force the City residents to pay their fair share, the same amount District residents are currently paying, adding $500,000 to the budget for more firefighters. The last time this was voted on, City residents votes YES to pay their fair share, yet the current District residents voted no. Huh? District residents voted to allow the City residents to keep their (much) smaller $.68 per $1000? This makes no sense. It is tantamount to voting for a tax cut for all your neighbors and agreeing to pay their difference for them. Makes no sense. Oh, and $500,000 is more than enough to fully staff the 153 Ave Station…
– This initiative will also make government bigger, increasing the number of elected officials that the budget has to pay for.
This one is absolutely incorrect. By its very nature, a merged fire district, when properly executed, will reduce operating costs by combining operations, training, and overhead or administration costs. Rather than paying for two Chiefs, two Assistant Chiefs, two Secretaries, etc, you pay one of each, and the savings in administration can be used for more boots on the ground or training, equipment, etc. Additionally, with more firefighting personnel, engines, medics, and stations, you have the added potential of reducing your ISO rating, the rating your insurance company bases your insurance rates on. So potentially, your increase in initial costs could be partially offset by reduced insurance rates. This does not even take into consideration the increase response times for you and your loved ones in case of fire or medical response…
– These costs could have been kept down if the city leaders would have chosen to stay on the board. Instead the majority have chosen to add more government personnel to the payroll. I am not in favor of this.
Fire districts do NOT want city government officials to sit on its commissioners boards for the same reason Fire Districts dont want to be part of city government As soon as a city needs a new sidewalk, or overspends its budget, or wants to replace a street light, the city must obtain the money. From where? Either higher taxes, or through budget cuts. Fire Department and Police Department budgets are the first to go EVERY TIME since they are the largest budget expenses!!! Just ask Stockton, CA or Los Angeles, CA, or Lacey Fire Dept., or hundreds of others, who were forced to close stations and lay off Firefighters and Police. So NOT having city officials into your Fire District business is a MUST for good District monetary policy and proper decision making. The way this merge is structured, when fully operational 12/10, there will be 3 commissioner Reps elected from each of the 3 Districts/areas involved, for a total of 9. Coincidentally, there were 9 members on the planning commission for the Regional Fire Authority, 3 each from the two current Districts, and 3 City Council Members. Yes this will solidify the three additional volunteer commissioner spots, but it will also eliminate the need for the Fire District to ever conduct contract negotiations with the City.
Oh, and by the way, Steve Slater sat on the board during the planning sessions and was the person who requested the City place City representatives on the fire board. The City responded by saying they were not in the business of running Fire Districts, and that the citizens should have a part of the process. HE SUGGESTED the more government idea. The positions that will be created are UNPAID commissioner positions. NO ADDED GOVERNMENT!!!…
– We have greater problems in our district that this plan wont fix. We have a budget that spent approximately $300,000 in overtime for 18 personnel. Well above the $175,000 that was budgeted.
This occurred for one reason only. Too few firefighters. In order to ensure adequate Firefighters to staff engines and medics units, we have what is called in the business minimum staffing, which is the minimum number of personnel required to function before calling in Overtime. Firefighters are exposed continuously to patients infected withevery conceivable disease known, plus injuries due to the abusive nature of our business. They will occasionally call in sick, lest we (us) infect the very people we are trying to heal. Please keep in mind, this is not an 8 hour job. These are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so one sick day will create 24 hours of Overtime. In order to maintain operational readiness, we need to call in Overtime when someone calls in sick or takes vacation. Increased staffing will directly reduce overtime. A reason in itself to vote YES….
– We used to have a force of some 70 volunteers that built and sustained the department and there is some rebuilding of that but we have less than 20 volunteers now.
Yes, in 2000, there were around 70 Volunteers. When actually reviewed, Department training records showed that most volunteers were not attending any training functions and were unwilling to participate further. There are currently 12-14 active, trained, dedicated volunteers, with many more inactive. Here is the reason: NFPA (National Fire Protection Association the Fire Depts Bible, so to speak) has minimum national requirements set to be a firefighter, whether volunteer or professional. We all fight the same fire, work the same vehicle accidents, and rescue the same victims. This requires several hundred hours to accomplish. Most people are no longer willing to put forth this effort to attain such certifications. Volunteerism is down nation wide…
– Im sure there are some that want to build an empire to rival some of the other districts in the county.
No one wants an empire. However, we ALL want excellent Fire service to protect our families…
– I am committed to being responsible to the citizens and making the best use of the resources you provide for us. I dont believe this will fix our problems but it will cost more. Remember you must vote or others will make their choice for you.
Steven L. Slater
Yelm Fire District
SE Thurston Fire & EMS
Response – Final Word:
Steve has the best of intentions, but the details speak for themselves. Please read the full Proposal here. http://setrfa.com/set_final_plan.pdf. Ask questions. Call Chief Hutchinson @ 458-2799. Talk to your neighbors. Call me. This is a necessary progression. THE INCREASE IN COSTS WILL ONLY AFFECT THE CITY CITIZENS, AND ONLY TO INCREASE SERVICE LEVELS!!! CURRENT DISTRICT CITIZENS ARE PAYING FOR SERVICES THAT ARE BEING UTILIZED BY THE CITY!!! Think about it. The District Citizens are paying $1.50/$1000 but have only one staffed staffed station in Rainier (think of 153rd Ave Station or Hannus Station) The City Citizens are paying $.68/$1000 and have a fully staffed station and new equipment. Makes no sense. We need your vote of YES.
Jonathan Sprouffske is a District Fire Commissioner and will be hosting a question and answer session regarding the RFA on Monday night(2/1/10) 6pm @ Clarks Restaurant, located at the Tahoma Valley Golf Course in Yelm, 15425 Mosman Ave SW, Yelm, WA, 98597. Please attend if you have any questions.
Serving my Community,