1. #1
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    Default volunteer fire dept vs. municipality

    A little tid-bit of history....Our small department covers about 2 towns and 118 sq miles of rural service area. We have a budget of 8500.00 each year from our city. Our department holds a few fundraisers each year as well as a fire protection subscription fee for each rural resident. Not all pay so we total about 7000.00 plus and additional 3500 for our 2 fundraisers. A few days ago I was looking throught the bills and deposits and realized we are not recieving but a portion of the monay we are getting budgeted, and in fact alot of the bills we ar paying is coming mostly out of the money we are bringing in. How can I go to the City Council and ask to get all of our money? I don't want them to notice whats going on and drop our budget down claiming that we make enough money to stay afloat. Any help is graciously aprreciated!!!

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    Is there a signed agreement, contract or law that covers how much money the City Council is suppose to provide you and what service those funds are for? Is the FD providing those services?

    There is a lot of questions that would need to be answered before you can get an answer. If there is nothing really supporting you getting funds, you can always go cordially and respectfully and request the funds. You just need to be sure your case for why you are asking is supported.

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    1. Are you the one responsible for getting from the city or someone else??

    2. what is the process of getting the money from the city??

    3. does the city have a finace person that handles the money??

    4. is the budget a lump sum or is it divided into various areas?? training, equip, insurance , etc???

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    Thank you Guys for your replies and i'm sorry I wasn't more detailed. We have budget of 8500.00. This budget is broken down into three parts: meeting funds, capital outlay, and salary. Each council meeting my Chief submits a bill for the firefighters who are on the roster at the time of the current months meeting. That is how we draw from the meeting fund. Next, is the salary. Each members recieves 5.00 dollars per call in which they themselves respond. (95% donate back to dept). That is where the salary budgeting comes from. Next is capital outlay, which from what I was told, is funds help back, that keeps growning, for the replacemant of equipment. What most people doesn't understand is that our Chief doesn't want to make anyone upset....so this has been going in for quite some time (probably the normal) however, I am finding it hard to "get ahead" and upgrade anything we have if we are not recieving full funding that we are allotted. I have no problem being the bad guy to the council....however, I don't nesicarily want to create bad blood. We rarely ask for additional funding if ever. Would it be beneficial to break down the funding even further? let me know what you thnk!

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    Make it all "public." An accounting of last month's financial considerations (which you have already mentioned) plus maybe a "year-to-date" summary should be given at each of your meetings. Our treasurer does so at our fire meetings (although our "FD, Inc" doesn't get any money from the fire district as such), and our fire district treasurer (our "municipality") does the same for district funds.

    As for the capital funds - there may be legal considerations there. If the funds are designated as "reserves" they may exist for a specific purpose. If the municipality in question is holding those funds, and you have some form of contract (if you don't, you should), they they owe you an accounting of the status of those funds. If there is nothing to hide, you shouldn't get any push-back.

    At some point, you should develop a replacement schedule for at least your major items (capital items). Make it fair and balanced - they pay some, you pay some for the replacement of {insert apparatus here} in X years, followed Y years later by the replacement of, well, you get my drift.

    Having a sensible replacement plan helps you, and the municipality, see what is needed, and may even allow you to talk them into an increase from time to time.

    Another function of such reports is to determine if you have your $8,500 broken down correctly. It makes no sense to regularly leave substantial amounts of money on the table for the meeting and salary accounts if said moneys don't get rolled over into your capital fund at the end of the year. In fact, if you are regularly underspending those accounts and you don't get the money in the capital fund, it's free money to the municipality. This is something that should be accounted for in a contract, and may be one reason you aren't getting the whole amount that is alloted to you.

    The budget and financial dealings of the municipality are public records - consider an informal meeting with the head of the municipality, if for no other reason than to test the waters. Try not to create the impression that you're doing an end-around on the chief. Get him to come to the meeting, too.

    Do you (ie your department leadership) attend the municipality's budget meetings/hearings?

    If you approach the issue in a non-confrontational way, I suspect that you'll see few problems. If you do get major push-back, then I'd worry. Your chief may not want to rock the boat, but he's not doing you any favors in my book.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Tree68-

    Thank you so much for your insight. As a department in whole, we haven't ever paid much, if any, attention to our finances in accordance with out municipality. We have always done our own thing and found our own way. However, it is not beocming a problem. I thank you every so much for your help in this matter. I will share your knowledge with the other officers and we will work in coordination with the city to creat a new or first contract!! Thanks again, DLR322

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    Is this the FD (I will not name the name) that has been in the NEWS lately?

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    Essentially, the first question you need to answer is, who "owns" the fire department?

    Is it setup as a city fire dept. under city ordinance? Is it an incorporated non-profit corporation?

    You need to know who "owns" your fire dept. to see who has the checkbook.

    If you are organized as a city fire dept., then the city would keep your finances. Anyone can go to look at the city finances and see where your "fire dept. fund" is being spent.

    Even as a city fire dept., you need to know the status of your fire dept. revenue/expenses. If you happen to apply for grant funds, you need to know what matching grant money you have available.

    If your fire dept. happens to be a non-profit incorporated fire dept., then you should see if a contract is in effect designating payment and what services your FD is to provide. Of course, having a non-profit incorporated fire dept. is somewhat different from a city fire dept, you still need to see what funds are given to you by city, townships, county, state funding, homeland security, DNR and other revenue sources.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BSFD9302 View Post
    Is this the FD (I will not name the name) that has been in the NEWS lately?
    Absolutley not sir!!!!

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    Sorry, its been a few days before I could get back behind the computer to check on my thread (I appreciate all the insight guys). Our department has has our own checkbook, which is basically our "firemans club" fund (firemans club is the old time saying for non-profit orangization equipment fund) . I believe we are owned by the city, however, any of our fundraiser money goes into the "firemans club" fund. Anyone can go look at the allocations the city budgets for us each and every year. After listening to you guys refer to a contract over and over I am starting to see a pattern. A contract is not currently in place. Would anyone happen to have a copy of thier current city/fire dept contract??? Just a shot in the dark I know, but I could use any help I get. (we are a very well trainied department with very committed guys, nice apparatus for our area and budget just really lacking in the leadership roles, the probkem is the guy thats there will not be going anywhere anytime soon, however that is another can of worms" Thanks guys!

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    Quote Originally Posted by wvfd322 View Post
    ...I believe we are owned by the city...
    Step 1. Find out the facts. There should not be any "I believe" involved with this. You need to know for sure. You may be finding that you are operating illegally (using public funds for non-public items) and such. Not saying you are....but you truly don't know. You be best off finding out and knowing "who" owns what, "who" is responsible for funding what, and so on.


    or....it may be best to just leave everything as it is and let it go quietly. (no, I don't recommend this route)
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Here's the contract our fire department signs with our fire district (our 'municipality') each year.

    In general, it specifies who the parties are, the areas to be covered, and each party's responsibilities. I removed any specific references to protect the guilty. Of course, you can't use it verbatim as it doesn't cover any financial aspects as such. The district gives us no money as such. That's an area you'll have to craft yourself. Even the process of writing the contract will help clarify any ambiguities.

    FIRE PROTECTION & EMERGENCY SERVICES AGREEMENT

    This Agreement dated as of the ___ day of _______, {year}, by and between the {Municipality}, a {type of municipality} encompassing the entire territory of the Town of Anytown, with offices located at {address} (the “Municipality”), and the Anytown Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., an incorporated fire department with its principal location at {address} (the “Department").

    WHEREAS, pursuant to the provisions of {cite appropriate laws}, the Municipality desires to provide for fire protection and emergency services within the Municipality by contracting for such services with the Department, and

    WHEREAS, pursuant to the authority granted by {appropriate law}, the Municipality has heretofore acquired the firefighting equipment and apparatus for the purpose of owning and maintaining the same in order that suitable apparatus and equipment is available to the Department for the providing of fire protection and emergency services within the Municipality.

    NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual covenants herein contained the parties agree as follows:

    1. The Fire Department shall provide to and within the territories of the Municipality fire protection and emergency services. The Anytown Volunteer Fire Department shall be the primary responder for fire protection and emergency services in the area of the Town of Anytown {specify boundries} The Anytown Fire Department shall provide fire protection in the other areas in the Town of Anytown {as appropriate} and in other areas in {name} County, in accordance with the mutual aid plan of {name} County. The Fire Department shall respond to any call reporting a fire or other emergency within its service areas of the Municipality and attend thereto without delay with the Municipality’s available apparatus and equipment, and shall proceed diligently to the extinguishments of fire, the saving of life and property and rendering emergency services.

    2. The Municipality shall acquire and maintain firefighting apparatus and emergency services vehicles and equipment suitable for the Department to render the services required by this agreement.

    3. The parties acknowledge that the Municipality is responsible and empowered pursuant to the provisions of {appropriate} Law to organize, equip and maintain fire departments and fire companies within the Municipality, and may provide rules and regulations governing the duties and responsibilities of members and providing for enforcement and discipline within the Department.

    4. The Department shall maintain its current membership procedures and training requirements and schedule and shall report to the Municipality semi-annually in regard to the status of membership and training.

    5. The members of the Department in performing the Department’s obligations under this agreement shall have all rights, privileges and immunities provided by law.

    6. The department shall make available to the Municipality, its records and books of accounts upon request by the Municipality.

    7. The term of this Agreement shall run from {date}, through {date}.

    This Agreement has been duly authorized by Resolution of the {Governing Body} of the Municipality duly adopted at a regular meeting thereof, and by affirmative vote a majority of the governing board of the Department at a regular meeting thereof.

    {Municipality}


    BY:
    Chairman
    {Governing Body}

    Anytown Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.


    BY:

    Chief
    Depending on how your department is constituted, this could already be codified in city ordinances or other such actions already.

    Depending on how the various fire departments are organized (we have a wide variety here), virtually all will have some form of contract between the municipality and the department.

    As Bones says - first things first. Find out everyone's roles in this process. If there are gaps, work toward closing them. Any contract should be carefully crafted by the parties involved and then vetted through a lawyer who knows municipal law.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Yes, its better to conduct research about what is in place. One fire dept. that I used to be a member of, had a contract with the city council. After a turnover on the city council, the "new" council did not want a contract. You will have to search the file cabinents at your fire hall and see what you have. Also, talk to retired members of your FD, they may know some background history.

    Remember that you are intertwinned with a city. Like the FD I just mentioned, the volunteers had their own checking account, but were using the cities tax exempt status to avoid paying taxes. In that case, too, the volunteers paid for a new fire hall, but the new fire hall was on city property.

    You may have to research into how intertwinned you are with the city. It may be almost impossible to break away from the city, since the volunteer dept. maybe intertwinned too much.

    Remember that you are there to serve the citizens of the community. I usually see volunteer fire dept's intertwinned with a city, fire district, etc. and it works fine. The times it does not work out, is when personalities clash. Then watch out. If everyone can be professional and put the community first, it will most likely work.

    Another recommendation, is that you give your city council a tour of your fire hall/station and fire apparatus once a year. A former dept. I was a member of had an annual meal, that was for the city councils and townships we served. Sort of a social that broke the ice and got conversations going about fire protection. If everyone is out in the open, then there is less chance for misunderstanding. If the city, in your particular case, knows what your needs are, they they maybe more "educated" when it comes to your requests for funding.

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    I have to say, I don't see how some of you guys do it. $8,500 a year total allotted budget to cover 118 Sq. Miles and 2 towns? No way. Subscription services, while dated and a terrible way of doing business, are still the way many departments operate. Sadly the citizens love it this way since they are not paying a fire tax...until they need the fire department.

    We cover a 2.5 Sq. Mile city with a population of around 2,500. Annual budget with one paid employee is right at $120,000 a year. And we still have trouble staying under budget sometimes. There is no way you guys are paying for things you need to be, upgrading gear, etc. on $8,500.

    More power to you though.
    Career Firefighter
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    -Professional in Either Role-

    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    Before we formed the town-wide fire district, my department derived it's funding from three sources - fundraising, obviously (I've sold a lot of chicken!), the money raised via taxes by the fire district ($5,000, but still the third highest fire tax rate in the county), and a contract with the township, which never got over $25,000, as I recall. The fire department owned the fire station and four of the trucks (when I joined we had three tankers), with the fire district owning the other two. The district paid rent to the fire department for use of the building and the tankers, and covered the cost of all fuel. Purchase of new or replacement equipment were iffy at best.

    These days we've got set budgets for various line items. If we need something, I can usually get it no problem, and if we want something, it's entirely possible we'll be able to get it. There is even a reserve fund which completely paid for our new brush truck, as well as a new engine for our sister department.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Thank you guys for all your support and answers. I know my first task over the holiday weekend will be finding out some history on our situation with the city. It sounds alot like we have the situation mentioned in one of the above replies. The members of my dept built our fire station from scratch paying for all the materials themselves....it is on city property. We have purchased a fire truck (1 of 6) with fundraiser and savings money and now its a city asset. One question we have looming is whether is it smarter to stay where we are or look at becoming a district. For the most part we make our own decisions and in becoming a district the old timers don't want to have to ask permission for everything form a board. As always thanks for the replies, I have a ton of work ahead of me!!!!! (not complaining!!!)

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    Go with the district. Some folks will chafe at having to get quotes, etc (especially the "wheeler dealers), but in the end you will much prefer it.

    If fire district isn't going to work, at least make sure that a contract (or even a memoradum of agreement) is in place and everyone understands who does what, etc.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    ...We cover a 2.5 Sq. Mile city with a population of around 2,500. Annual budget with one paid employee is right at $120,000 a year...
    Prior to Sandy....

    1.5 sq miles, winter pop ~5000, summer pop ~20,000. Budget ~70,000 No paid at all.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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