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September 18, 2013

Fire Department contract cost seen at $1.6M

The Fire Department contract already signed and ready to go into effect next July 1 – one designed to keep all fire stations open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — will increase the city’s annual fire department spending too, by 25 percent above the current cost.

City administrators are still meeting and crunching numbers as they work out the plan to increase firefighters’ work hours from 42 a week to 56, but officials have narrowed down a firm cost estimate of an extra $1.6 million annually on top of the $6.2 million the city provided to the department in the current fiscal year.

“However you look at it, it’s expensive,” Kirk said. But, she added, “We’re also getting double the amount of stations open. This is part of what we’ve worked for on our financial management — restoring lost city services.”

The Fire Department is on schedule to implement the new department structure by the start of fiscal 2015 and as laid out in the contract signed by city officials and the fire department’s union leader in June.

The city had appropriated $5.8 million for the Fire Department in the fiscal year 2013 budget, but later added free cash to increase the regularity of opening outlying stations Bay View and Magnolia, upping the spending to $6.2 million.

Kirk said her office will budget for the $1.6 million increase by likely funding half the increase, or about $800,000, with “free cash” or unbudgeted city revenues in the first year of the contract, which goes into effect next July 1. The following fiscal year, the city will budget for the entirety of the contract, easing into the new raised cost of running the department, Kirk said.

After that, said Kirk, the contract costs will be “baked into the operating budget.”

The multi-year budget plan, Kirk said, allows the city to absorb the added cost over time.

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