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Timberline Board members review proposed 2014 budget, policies

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Challenges to come by 2015 if District runs at current level

By Patty Unruh

Members of the Board of Timberline Fire Protection District (Timberline) met at 7 p.m. October 9 for a workshop to discuss the 2014 proposed budget and policies. The workshop location was Station 3 at 660 Highway 46.

Present were Fire Chief Chris Jennings, Board President Rick Wenzel, Vice President Jim Crawford, Secretary Paul Ondr, Treasurer Chris Samuelson, Member-at-Large Kay Johnston, and Business Manager Jennifer Hinderman.

2014 Proposed Budget

The members began by reviewing a draft of the proposed budget for 2014. For purposes of the workshop, the budget draft was displayed on a screen for viewing. A second draft copy was made available at Station 3 for the public on October 15.

“There is not a lot of slack in the budget the way we are currently running,” Jennings said at the meeting, adding that it was not his intention for Timberline to keep running at the current level, but if it did, it would run into challenges by January 2015. Wenzel commented that they need a plan for cutting spending, and Jennings agreed but said if too much was cut, it would affect service. The Board members agreed to pursue grants.

The second draft of the proposed budget showed the general fund having a declining balance from 2012 to 2014. The balance was $476,810 at the end of 2012. The estimated balance for 2013 is $351,248. The proposed 2014 balance is $270,943.

2012 revenues were $512,373; the 2013 estimate is $504,274, and the 2014 proposal is $484,242. Jennings estimated a decrease in property values and consequent decrease in tax revenues to be received. Property tax income for 2012 was $681,024. The estimated amount for 2013 is $687,955. The proposed income for 2014 is $668,012, a decrease of $19,943.

The fund balance, excluding a Tabor Reserve, was $351,248 in 2012. The estimate for 2013 is $270,943. Proposed for 2014 is $150,811, a decrease from 2012 of $200,437.

The beginning fund reserve proposed for 2014 is $270,943, and the ending balance of the reserve is proposed at $150,811, a decrease of $120,133. The fund decrease for 2013 is estimated at $80,305. In 2012, the beginning fund reserve was $476,810; ending balance was $351,248, a decrease of $125,562.

Total general fund expenditures were proposed at $604,375 for 2014. This is up from 2013 estimate of $584,579, but down from 2012 actual expenditures of $637,935.

Salaries were one main item in the proposed budget. The fire chief’s salary was proposed at $85,000, the same as for 2013 and up from $67,708 in 2012. Payroll taxes budgeted for 2014 are also proposed to be the same as for 2013 at $11,900, up from $1,910 in 2012.

The amount budgeted in 2013 for a fire marshall’s position at roughly $4,500 was zeroed out because Jennings advised he had taken on much of those duties.

Salary for maintenance/training staff was proposed at $56,000. The estimate for 2013 is $50,800. The 2012 salary was $42,164. Salary for bookkeeper was proposed at $33,608 and for business manager at $48,700, up from $31,581 and $42,433 estimates in 2013, respectively.

A new item under salaries was a recruitment and retention officer. The Board discussed a full-time officer at about $65,000, which Jennings stated is “desperately needed.” The Board decided to reduce that to a part-time position, with the proposed budget showing $28,500 in salary. The 2014 proposed budget also includes “recruitment and retention” under miscellaneous at $3,500.

Total salaries and taxes proposed for 2014 are $271,008, up from the 2013 estimate of $229,784 and 2012 actual total of $200,215.

Personal protective equipment was shown at $15,000, up from the 2013 estimate of $10,755 but down from the 2012 total of $21,447.

Firefighting training was proposed at $25,000 for 2014, up from $19,792 in 2013 and $15,300 in 2012.

Equipment repairs and maintenance for 2014 are proposed at $72,000, up from $65,400 in 2013 but down from $98,665 in 2012.

Total fire station expense was proposed at $52,400 for 2014, up from $46,841 in 2013 and $36,380 in 2012.

Firefighter recognition was proposed at $3,000, the same as in 2013 and up from $952 in 2012. A service awards dinner was proposed at $2,500, down from $4,251 in 2013 and $4,466 in 2012.

There will be an election in May 2014 for new board members, with $8,000 was budgeted for that.

The capital replacement fund showed debt service of $1.263 million, on which the annual principal payment is budgeted at $126,500, with interest budgeted at $18,500. The principal and interest for 2013 are estimated at $125,335 and $17,828 so far.

Construction expenses on Timberline’s fire stations showed zero; total in 2013 is estimated at $168,198 and in 2012 was $48,612.

Equipment total was proposed at $60,000, while 2013 estimate is $4,500. 2012 total was $52,472. Jennings said the High Country Auxiliary had purchased two thermal imaging cameras for Timberline.

Jennings said Timberline won’t buy new trucks next year, but he planned to include $4,000 for a winch system in the budget.

The Board discussed safety concerns at station 1 with slide-off from recent flooding and suggested having the insurance company look at it. They commented that the station was in the disaster zone, and federal help may be needed. They were concerned with possibly being unable to provide service in that area. Board members stated the majority of calls there are medically related.

The Board examined costs for a wildland mitigation position at 16 hours a week for 18 months. This would be a jointly managed position through Timberline and Gilpin County. Timberline and the County would contribute $5,000 each toward the salary, with the Department of Natural Resources covering any remainder.

Jennings had met with the Rollinsville Homeowners Association and with Gail Watson of the Gilpin County Commissioners about station 9 at Rollinsville. He said currently there are two Connector buses there that they want to use for evacuation purposes. Presently, station 9 is used as county shops. Jennings stated that working on station 9 is the next highest priority after station 1.

Policies

With an election coming up, the Board discussed drafts of policies regarding new board members, including the issue of orientation of new members. It was agreed that an orientation packet and a prospectus should be provided to new members, including specific responsibilities.

The members also went over responsibilities of the fire chief, adding the application for grants to the enumerated duties. They focused attention on project management. “Project” was defined as an item of unique nature and fixed duration and may use resources outside of the department. The draft of the policy stated that the chief shall appoint a project manager for any major project undertaken by the Fire Protection District, and that the project manager shall solicit bids for any project estimated to cost more than $5,000. The members agreed that the winning bid would not necessarily be the lowest bid, but rather, would be based on “best value” as determined by the project manager. The fire chief is to maintain a project schedule and budget during the project.

Crawford suggested that project contracts should be based not just on dollar amounts but on the complexity of the projects. Samuelson noted that the Board is responsible to the taxpayers on dollar amounts for projects. He said, “We are elected to manage the District’s resources.”

Other policies the Board had scheduled to review included the fire chief’s fiduciary duty, financial administration by the District bookkeeper and chief, facility use for the District by outside organizations or individuals, insurance management, fee schedule, and inclusion into the Timberline FPD.

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