1. #1
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    Default SAFER Award Help

    I was hoping maybe those who have dealt with similar issues in the past, especially the grant writers, can give me a little guidance. We got an 1199a update and questions for SAFER, but I have a few problems......


    The first issue involves the third year expenses (surprise) and issues specific to New Jersey. The short version is the town leadership is in favor of the grant and the award but worried about the expenses in the third year pushing the town over the tax levy cap law that is enacted in New Jersey. Basically a town cannot raise their tax levy more than 4% per year (which may be changed to 2.5%). Given the new structure of the program I donít know how it is possible for awardees in New Jersey not to go over the tax levy cap, or put a huge dent in the cap making it more difficult for a town/city to function. The basics of my question areÖ.do you know if anyone has had this issue before and if so is there a way around it. I have to believe that there has to be some exemption for towns to meet grant obligations without these obligations affecting the 4% cap. If not, I donít know how any award in New Jersey is going to stand up. I believe this is an unintended consequence of the changes in structure with the SAFER program. As it was before, the obligation was slowly placed on those who were awarded, lessening the blow over time and preventing a cap overage. I think this may be a problem for all New Jersey SAFER awardees this year under the new guidance.



    My second question revolves around layoffs after the submission of my application and the clause that we must maintain the staffing we had in place at the time of application. My issue is that in December the town privatized our BLS ambulance program that was run by the fire department. This action resulted in the layoff of two career members who staffed the ambulance, lowering our career staff total. I counted these positions in our total career staff in the application but not as NFPA support (maybe in error??) but now it leaves me in a predicament. Does the program require the rehire of these employees to receive the grant, being that we must maintain the prior staffing level? I could understand if these positions directly affected the engine staffing or the grant objectives but they do not. Basically, the grant would still allow our engine staffing to increase from 3 to 4 on all shifts which was the objective. Hiring back two additional personnel just to receive the five requested makes no sense. I would have to hire two personnel at full cost to staff an ambulance we no longer have.



    Any ideas?

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    My response to your first question would be: How did you address this in your application? This type of situation is the exact reason why the SAFER program has seen declined awards. They are trying to avoid this!

    I guess to sum this up -- this is something you knew about before the application. There's no excuse now.

    Second -- this would be something to discuss directly with a grants management specialist if awarded.

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    Another few questions that come to mind , is how did you plan to address the funding these 5 grant funded firefighters after the period of performance? Was this an anticipated automatic layoff of the new grant funded positions in year 3/4? Or were you hoping to fund them inside of the 4 % cap in future years? . Was there a financial plan in place to fund them with the town governments approval? Were the two career positions eliminated strictly EMS providers and not trained as firefighters?

    New Jersey is not the only place where property tax caps are in effect. We are limited to a 2% cap that requires a majority vote to override, even if it involves increases in county tax or school district increases. We have all undergone tight budgets and decreases in state funding in these economic times.

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    Ok, did I miss something? So 2009 SAFER 1199A and questions are out? I'm so out of the loop anymore! As much as I miss the days of spending 40 hours a week on the forums...I sure do like this job much better.

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    Had a few 1199s go out this week.

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    WT, on the EMS riders point, if you weren't counting them as NFPA support I don't see why they would have an issue with it since the role of the department changed. Seeing all sides of the story that part of your question I don't see an issue with the layoff of personnel since it wasn't specific to the application. Your app was written without those 2 bodies in consideration anyway and it still went through so not having them isn't a loss to the staffing minimums.

    On the other one with the tax caps, guess there are going to be some budget cuts somewhere to make up for the extra pay. As someone else mentioned at some point that had to have been covered in the application's funding needs section in order to make sense and be awarded. Somewhere you have to be saving money in the first two years to lessen the blow. Several of the people we worked with have their OT budgets remaining at pre-SAFER levels and whatever isn't spent goes into reserve to take on the additional costs as the years move on in the award. Local government is fully behind these moves for them so not an issue with the taxpayers thinking money is being collected and "wasted" because it isn't being spent.

    If more folks didn't stick to the municipal "spend everything" mindset then the downs in the economy can be weathered more easily. But then again I'm preaching to the choir on that...

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    That is what I was thinking regarding the loss of the two positions. I didn't count them towards NFPA support so I don't know why it would hurt the application. We will see.

    As for the funding of the third year, I did have a plan. The problem now is that New Jersey has financially blown up (even more) since I wrote the grant application. Every town is getting their state aid cut by roughly 10 to 20 percent. When millions of dollars disappear from your budget and you can't raise taxes more than 4% it leaves you in a real predicament. Basically it is doubtful, even if they are willing to raise taxes, that most towns will be able to raise their taxes enough to cover the cost of the loss in state aid, not to mention any increases. The cap is on its way to being cut to 2.5%, further magnifying the problem. None of these issues existed to this extent when I wrote the grant.

    Can we cut some things and come up with the money....maybe. I think we can reduce some budget items, like OT over the first two years to make up most of the cost for the third. That said though, I doubt that money would actually be around when year three happens. From what I understand and have been told, a municipality can't put actual money asside and have it sit for more than a year for personnel. So the money saved would have to be on paper....no physical.

    I was hoping that grants and there obligations at least wouldn't count towards the tax levy cap, but I don't believe that is the case.

    I am going to call the SAFER grant specialist for our area on Monday to see if I can get any further guidance on the issues. The first specialist I talked to, via email, mentioned budgetary supplanting being possible on a case by case basis. Call me ignorant but what is budgetary supplanting?

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    Where they're giving you money to do what you're already doing, so since you let 2 people go they'd be funding you to put back what was there, not expanding. That's a possible angle on things, but as you mentioned the business of the station changed so those weren't "firefighters" per the definition for staffing. The mission changed so the staffing changed. Ideally would have been better to move one over to the truck to fit the staffing like the grant is for, so could be a sticky wicket to get it past. They might tell you to bag the 2009 and reapply for 2010.

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