Bonita fire board to increase budget

Residents question operational costs, reserve account

By RYAN HIRAKI, rhiraki@news-press.com
Published by news-press.com on September 9, 2003



Bonita Springs fire commissioners decided Monday to increase their 2003-04 budget but keep their tax rate — $2.30 for every $1,000 of taxable property value — the same.

The hearing is set for

6 p.m. Sept. 23 at the fire station at 27490 Old 41.

The tentative agreement Monday was for a budget increase of more than $3 million, going from about $21.3 million in 2002-03 to nearly $24.5 million. The increase nearly doubled from last year, as the 2001-02 budget was $11.3 million.

A $6 million cost for a new fire station in east Bonita off Bonita Grande Drive and the addition of 15 new firefighters contributed to the higher budget.

And that didn’t sit well with several residents.

“The fire district has done a good job operation-wise,” Spanish Wells resident Carl Wyles said, “but controlling costs have been out of line.”

He questioned the fire board on what has been done to reduce operational costs and how much a new rescue boat has been used.

Board Chairman Frank Liles replied: “You don’t think we should build (another fire station) for the protection of the citizens of Bonita?”

The new station will become the only Bonita station east of Interstate 75.

“If you did come to all our meetings, you wouldn’t be standing up where you are right now,” Liles said.

Resident Alex Grantt asked when the district would be getting another fire truck, a cost commissioners said would be added to next year’s budget.

“And if we buy another truck, the budget’s gonna go up again,” Liles said.

Ron Pure, president of the Taxpayer Action Group, wanted to know why the district does not lower its reserves, a little more than $3.7 million.

“It’s like a savings account; we have it in case of an emergency,” Liles said. “If we lose two trucks in a month’s time, that’s a million bucks.”

Grantt lauded the reserves, saying “the city of Bonita’s reserves are 20 percent of their budget, so 15 percent isn’t that bad.”