Budgets and reserves
Not that many years ago South King Fire & Rescue was able to responsibly buy new fire trucks.
Without asking for more taxes.
Not that many years ago they also used to hire full time firefighters.
Without asking for more taxes.
What happened to force an exceedingly irresponsible $53.7 million dollar bond measure on the ballot?
The Operating Budget and the Capitol Budget set the tone for spending each year and the district is supposed to set aside Reserves for predictable major expenses.
The separate divisions generally categorize people, structure, equipment and associated maintenance with the Reserves acting as an accumulating savings account to cover the equipment replacement and outstanding maintenance as necessary.
A responsible budget would include spreading revenues over the all sections of the budget to maintain a safe and adequately staffed fire district with the vital tools and buildings to serve our community.
For decades this district has balanced staff with equipment and structures to provide the excellent Class 2 rated services our citizens have come to expect. Administration and commissioners worked well to forecast and identify vehicles ready for moving to stand-by status, and decommissioning while timely purchasing new ones.
Sadly, for the past few years, the Reserves account has not been adequately funded, leaving less and less money for needed fire trucks, aid cars and service vehicles, as well as basic and major building maintenance.
So what is different now? Why is the district suddenly $53,700,000 short of meeting its obligations?
Yes, we had a few bad economic years, bring real estate values down and fire district revenues with them. But isn’t that exactly what Reserves are intended to cover? Taxes collected but not spent on the everyday costs to provide service?
And the economy is recovering very well. Housing prices are back to 2010 levels, and beyond, bringing fresh property tax revenue to the district in increasing amounts every year.
Who decided, at the expense of responsible planning and learned financial forecasting, that taxes be diverted away from decades long recognized obligations and saving practices?
Every citizen and homeowner has the same budget standards.
From your income, you pay regular living expenses (Operating Budget) and put some money into scheduled maintenance on the house and vehicles (Capitol Budget) and set something aside for predictable repairs. And have an account for the new roof every 20 years, furnace or water heater replacement, and that new car every 5 years (Reserves).
Accountable and responsible property owners make wise choices and never have to seek gifts from their neighbors to maintain all three of the legs of the financial stool.
So what has happened to make your fire chief and the commissioners come to you begging more money?
Is the first step out of economic depression to spend more money on Operating Expenses?
Or is it to focus on our Reserves and so we can quickly get back on track purchasing the equipment needed to keep our district functioning at a Class 2 Rating?
These goals could, and should, have been met before asking the public for more taxes.
So, what happened to our Reserves Account?
And is the dismal performance with Reserves having a negative effect on our Class 2 Rating?