Modesto Bee
Modesto, CA
Modbee.com

Consolidated fire district spending needs to be reined in

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By MARCIA BOER

The situation with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District seems to be a problem of overspending and financial mismanagement.

Some of the reasons given include the increase in workers compensation insurance. If a private company has to absorb the increases, why can't a government entity also pinch pennies and make its existing budget work? Why keep hiring new employees and giving uniform allowances if the money isn't in the budget? These employees are paid enough money to be able to spend the $1,000 per year to provide their own clothes. This equates to about $84 per month.

Prior to the consolidation of the departments, many of the stations involved were staffed by volunteers. Today there are virtually no volunteers left in any of the stations except La Grange.

My father, sister and husband were volunteers in the Waterford-Hickman Fire Department. I know that there are many new regulations in effect that weren't then, but the volunteers got the job done. There are still all or mostly volunteer fire departments that are able to provide quality service to their districts. It takes time and dedication to be a volunteer, and it also takes a lot of training. Both of my sons are volunteers for the Woodland Avenue Fire Department, and at the reimbursement rate that they are paid per call, it is a wonder that anyone would want to volunteer, yet they do.

First responders for medical emergency calls attend, on average, four trainings per month. Volunteers must meet all of the same basic training requirements that paid firefighters meet. The area of Maze Boulevard known as "Blood Alley" is a part of the Woodland district, so their medical training is invaluable.

Why doesn't Stanislaus Consolidated encourage a revival of the volunteers? It could save money and stretch the paid employees over a greater area.

When Stanislaus Consolidated was created, many volunteers were discouraged and gradually the volunteer associations were disbanded. If the paid personnel had treated volunteers with respect, there might be more active volunteer associations.

The district is asking for an advance on its income, but how will it pay back that money? Scare tactics will be used and threats of station closures and lack of emergency medical services will force the public into paying higher tax assessments. The Consolidated Fire Protection District will become another tax-and-spend, out-of-control government agency.

Every time there is a budget shortfall, taxpayers are asked to meet the difference by increasing taxes. There are only so many taxpayers. If these increases continue, pretty soon taxpayers will just turn over their whole paychecks and hope they get services.

This sounds far-fetched but with each group wanting a little, it adds up to a lot. It seems like that when public money is involved, the people in charge want the best and most expensive items available.

There are ways to save and not cause concern for public safety and fire suppression abilities. The people in charge just need to act a little more conservatively and live within their budgets.

Boer is a community columnist. E-mail her at columns@modbee.com.



Posted on 08/03/04 05:45:17
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/commun...-9831964c.html