By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fire Board Actions Raise Some Questions

Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD) had a regular Board meeting mid-May to discuss a number of items including mid-year budget revisions, fire recovery, special benefit assessment rate with lifeline program, and an amendment to Fire Chief Whorton’s employment agreement. This has alarmed some citizens, as the board approved a pay increase for the Chief, firefighters have seen an increase in the amount for their retirement while sick time accrual has been reduced and citizens will now be billed for some services.

SCFPD will bill individual’s insurance carriers for cost recovery on motor vehicle incidents, vehicle fires, marine and water incidents, hazmat calls, and special rescue services. Citizens will not be charged for medical services and the district said they will not send people to collections. In regards to crashes everyone involved will be billed for services, officials said, not just the person at fault. The Cost Recovery program is expected to bring in $75,000 to $100,000 annually.

Public Information Officer, Captain Buck Condit, stated that the operating budget for SCFPD for 2020-21 is $11,000,000. They started the year with a $924,200 deficit and the board, Whorton, and employees of the district reduced the deficit to $493,545.

“If some people feel they already pay for fire service through their assessment, there is not much we can say that would change their minds, and that is fully understandable,” added Condit. “However, The “Special Benefit Assessment” or “Fire Assessment,” is an assessment on property within the Fire District to provide structural fire protection and protection to its occupants, only (not other district related services … i.e. vehicle related incidents, rescues, hazmat, water or special rescues, vehicle fires). It is important to note that the imposition of the Fire Assessment will not fully fund all Fire District related activities. It will only partially fund fire protection services. This is because “General Benefits,” and “Special Benefits,” to properties have to be separated out.”

Therefore, said Condit, other revenues have to supplement other operations of the district, that being property tax and cost recovery.

“In fiscal year 16-17, SCFPD lost $650,500 out of our property tax to ERAF, Education Revenue Augmentation Fund, which further reduces our operational capacity and the loss continues to increase,” explained Condit.

The special benefit assessment on properties will increase by 3 percent which Condit offered as an example if a single family residence was charged $286.21 a year, that will increase to $294.80 a year. Condit added that the benefit assessment has been raised 11 times out of the 15 years it has been in place and the last time there was an increase was Fiscal Year 2019-20.

Chief Whorton did receive a 5 percent annual step increase and Condit said that all members of the district have scheduled step increases and will continue to receive them.

As far as firefighters taking a pay cut, Condit explained that, “Through the collective bargaining process, there have been changes to the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). Firefighters will be paying 3 percent more into their retirement system and sick-time accrual has been reduced from 24 hours a month to 18 hours a month. Industry standard is 11.7. Local 3399 membership, through the collective bargaining process, voted to accept the MOU and it is still in the process of receiving all necessary signatures.”