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    Default State Budget concerns

    Hello everyone
    I was at an my EMT clinical with a Fire Rescue and I was having a conversation with a Firefighter/medic. He was passing on to me "fire department" scuttle-butt about his fire department will have their last hiring class because they will have hiring freeze. This is in reference to the Florida Property Tax reform controversy up at the state capitol. The concern is that Fire Department's budget will be affected for the property tax reform.
    The firefighter's bleak outlook of the future has made me very skeptical.

    How can Fire Departments function if they have to personnel issues if they experience retirements, terminations, or medical leaves? Fire and even Police Departments still need to hire new people. Has anyone heard about this?

    Thanks.

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    Article published Apr 25, 2007

    Sarasota County forced to rethink expansion

    By DOUG SWORD

    SARASOTA COUNTY -- "The expansions of bus operations and fire and ambulance services may grind to a halt as Sarasota County begins spending cuts amid widespread expectations that local property taxes will be overhauled next year.

    Once awash in property taxes from a real-estate upswing that lifted property tax collections by more than $90 million over the past four years, the county launched several big initiatives aimed at catching up with growth and catering to the demands of an increasingly urban population.

    Chief among those was a 10-year plan to add about 350 firefighters and paramedics, filling gaps where emergency response times hadn't kept up with the construction of new subdivisions.

    But now Sarasota County has joined a lengthening list of local governments that have announced hiring freezes or spending cutbacks as the Legislature considers tax reforms.

    Charlotte County and the cities of Sarasota, Bradenton and Palmetto have halted hiring. Manatee County has suspended $35 million in planned spending.

    The most immediate impact in Sarasota County could be plans to hire 50 bus drivers and other employees to expand Sarasota County Area Transit's bus services. Less than half those employees have been hired so far and the county is studying whether to halt the rest of the expansion.

    Other programs that could be cut back are plans to spend about $2 million to beautify parks and to give more money to local human services groups.

    Over the past two years, the county has boosted SCAT's budget from $13 million to $20 million, adding new routes and doubling the number of buses serving more popular routes. SCAT chief Anthony Beckford said he hopes county budget cuts do not result in the loss of routes. He believes the system can still reach its goal of boosting ridership by 25 percent this year.

    "Until I see anything concrete from the legislation up in Tallahassee ... I'll do what we can in terms of slowing the process down and being more efficient in terms of our operations here," Beckford said.

    "There's no question we're going to be doing a lot of rethinking," said County Commissioner Jon Thaxton.

    In an internal memo, County Administrator Jim Ley announced the county is under a "soft hiring freeze" and may "roll back" some of the planned expansions.

    The state-mandated cuts "would significantly slow down implementation of our fire and EMS plans," Ley said in an interview.

    "We're obviously concerned," said Mervin Kennell, business agent for Suncoast Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Local 2546.

    Beside the 10-year plan to nearly double the size of the fire department, the county is halfway through an "emergency" plan that was to add four temporary fire stations. Kennell wants the county to at least finish the three-year emergency plan, reducing the areas where it can still take 15 minutes or more for a fire engine or ambulance to reach.

    The county has hired all 27 additional firefighters that were in this year's budget and opened temporary fire stations in Palmer Ranch and at Twin Lakes Park.

    But future hires are now in doubt, as is the timing of new fire stations on Fruitville and Vic Edwards roads, previously slated to open this summer, and at Palmer Boulevard between Apex and Porter roads, which was to open by the end of the year.

    The county estimates the state Senate's property tax plan would cut $14 million out of its budget next year. The House's plan would cause an $84 million cut. The two chambers are in negotiations and Ley is directing that the county brace itself for a cut of between $30 million and $50 million from next year's budget.

    Even without the Legislature's cuts, the county was expecting a "flat budget" for next year, said Budget Manager Jeffrey Seward.

    The city of Sarasota is also taking steps to prepare for a potentially tough budget year. The downturn in real estate and the economy had the city expecting revenues could be down even without property tax reform.

    Last week Interim City Manager Peter Schneider enacted a "soft hiring freeze," meaning he must approve the refilling of all positions except those that deal with public health and safety, such as police officers.

    He also set limits on staff travel, training and seminars and determines the necessity of capital equipment and projects on a "case-by-case" basis.

    "The rate of increase is not as great this year as it has been in the past," Schneider said of the city's revenue. "As we get a better idea of what the Legislature does, we may have to take additional actions."

    Schneider began meeting with city department heads Tuesday to discuss their budgets.

    He has asked each of them to prepare two budgets: one operating with the same amount of money as last year and one with 7 percent in cuts.

    Then there's Tallahassee, where statewide tax reforms enacted by the Legislature could drive Sarasota's revenues down by more than 10 percent, said Gibson Mitchell, the city's finance director.

    "Levels of services will have to be reduced," Mitchell said. "You can only cut so much paper, so much pencils."

    The city's operating budget has expenditures of $187 million. This year it has a $3.7 million deficit, Schneider said.

    Manatee County has sworn off making any cuts to public safety programs.

    Outside of that, property taxes fund about $150 million in county services and officials say their worst-case scenario is for state-mandated cuts of up to $85 million.

    The county commissioners have made dire predictions that everything from county mass transit to the library system could be shut down.

    County number crunchers don't currently have any firm budget estimates because legislative proposals seem to change from week to week, said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.

    "Every time we think we have a number, they tweak a proposal," he said."

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    Pats right, untill counties figure how the new tax is going to affect thair Dept most will get very conservative.
    There is Life outside the Firehouse!

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    Our city has already frozen all hiring until the state decides which tax plan to adopt. We are currently short 5-10 ff/pm's. The city has also scrapped plans to build a new staion to replace an aging one that was orriginaly built to house 2 people(we have 5-6 thier depending on staffing). The city may have to close stations and lay off 40 firefighters depending on which plan the state picks. The county may have to lay off 500.

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    FireMedic61 you from PBC fire rescue, City of, or gardens......
    There is Life outside the Firehouse!

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    That is amazing coming from Palm Beach County. I am currently in EMT school. Recently I had one rescue clinical with Brevard County. I heard rumors up here about a hiring freeze with this county too. A District Chief came to the station and he and the two Firemedics talked about the rumors. He basically advised them it is way to early to make any conclusions.

    About laying off firefighters down there, that is crazy. In my opinion it puts PBC residents in danger.

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    From today's paper...

    Article published May 3, 2007

    Property tax squabbles push debate to June special session
    By JOE FOLLICK

    TALLAHASSEE -- "With their efforts to cut property taxes derailed by philosophical squabbles, lawmakers agreed on Wednesday to delay debate until a special session in June.

    A sign of the complicated struggle was the emergence after months of intense study of a new concept that would deeply cut the taxable value of every property, not just those owner-occupied properties that qualify for the homestead exemption.

    This year's session ends Friday. Overwhelmed by the complexity of how to cut billions of dollars in taxes without eviscerating local government budgets, Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, pulled the plug Wednesday morning.

    "It would have been very difficult to get it right" by Friday, Pruitt said.

    The primary obstacle has been Rubio's insistence on raising the state sales tax by up to 2.5 percent -- making it the highest state sales tax rate in the nation. That increased revenue would offset deep cuts in property taxes. But senators and Gov. Charlie Crist never favored the sales tax increase and offered lower tax cuts based on forcing local governments to roll back their property tax collections to the levels of 2003.

    Crist said Wednesday he was "disappointed but not disheartened" by lawmakers' failure to do the job in their 60-day session.

    But the high-stakes nature of tinkering with the state's economic future with changes to the constitution made delay almost inevitable as lawmakers deal with hundreds of other issues right now.

    "What we do or fail to do won't just have a dramatic effect on the politics of this state, but will have a dramatic impact on the economics of it," Rubio said.

    "We don't want to mess it up," said Crist. "That's why I don't want anybody to get upset about taking another month to get it right."

    Rubio's desire for a "tax swap" of higher sales taxes for lower property taxes was also a philosophical quest from a man eager to leave his mark on the state.

    "It is very apparent that the House has been concerned not just with reducing the amount of taxes but with altering the structure," said Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach.

    But Rubio said the Senate plan would only provide tax cuts without addressing severe inequities that allow new homeowners to pay much more than neighbors in similar homes who have lived there for a long time and enjoyed the Save Our Homes cap of 3 percent on assessment increases annually.

    How to assuage Rubio's desire for an overhaul of the system without raising other taxes is something that could be solved with an evolving plan gaining favor within the past few days.

    Crafted by Rep. David Simmons, R-Maitland, and Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, it would exempt up to 50 percent of a home's market value from property taxes.

    For example, the owner of a $400,000 home would pay taxes on $200,000. The exemption percentage would lower as the value of the home increases, offering similar savings of $4,000 to $5,000 for all homeowners.

    Simmons said the percentages could be adjusted, and similar cuts could be applied to businesses and other properties. By applying the cut to all property owners, the inequities of Save Our Homes would be alleviated.

    Crist said Wednesday that the general idea might be gaining attention.

    "There have been some ideas being discussed about some percentages being used," Crist said. "There may be some of that getting injected here."

    Senators said the plan was being studied, but that the impact needed more study.

    It is similar to another idea, originally advanced by House Democrats, that Crist discussed with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz on Wednesday morning. That plan would basically give a "super exemption" for businesses and those who own homes worth less than half of the median home value in a county.

    The House Democrats also suggested a sales tax increase to generate revenue to lessen the impact on local governments.

    While weeks of negotiating the details remain, the general concept of simply cutting the taxed value of property rather than giving a fixed exemption may gain momentum since it would also eliminate the problem of homeowners facing sharp increases when they move and lose the accrued Save Our Homes tax breaks.

    After days of dour forecasting, Rubio was visibly happy Wednesday. But beyond saying that "I just can't tell you how excited I am" and that he could see for the first time "the outline of a big, massive tax cut," he declined to discuss the shape of possible cuts.

    "It's going to target the people who need it the most," he said. "The more money you pay in taxes, the bigger break you're going to get."

    Rubio and others said voters will have a chance to vote on the changes this year in a special statewide election.
    "

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    City of Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue.

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    Alex Lamb still working there? Old Fire School Bud! From IRCC.
    There is Life outside the Firehouse!

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    That would be Driver/Engineer Alex Lamb. Yep still here.

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    Lou from MC said hey!
    There is Life outside the Firehouse!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dell205 View Post
    About laying off firefighters down there, that is crazy. In my opinion it puts PBC residents in danger.
    It puts everybody in danger!

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    just my luck i finish fireschool down here in springs almsot done with EMT and all this happens.

    Hey i use to work with mark joyce at the reef grill from Palm beach gardens.

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    Yeah tell me about it. This hiring freeze sucks.



    Seminole Tribe, here I come!

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    Default Welcome to Tax Truth

    Here is a petion floating around by one of the locals. Please feel free to email or pass along as needed.

    This website was designed by the Martin County Local of the IAFF, please pass it on to family, friends and friends of friends. The petition letter is sent to all of the house and senate leaders e-mail accounts, not e-mail drop boxes and thank you local 2959 for putting this site together


    http://taxtruth.net/index.html

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    Here in Orange County we are putting through our last recruit class then the freeze is on, and as far as our contract negotiations go... we're screwed! I think that we are the 4th largest FD in the state and our starting FF/EMTs make appx. $36,000.00 a year. Our Union took the County before a Special Master who ruled that we should have pay parity with other FDs of similiar size and services and that the County should give us a STEP PLAN!! Well needless to say we will not hold our breath for any of that. Hell, I guess that I should be gratefull that there will be no layoffs. I hope that NO firefighters in Florida get laid off PERIOD!! Orange County has a TON of money and know they got the perfect excuse to KEEP screwing us. Shame on you Mayor Crotty and Chief Plaugher!!

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    The UN-Special Master ruled in favor of you guys and the County won't follow the ruling. Hmmmmmmm imagine that! We have had that same problem, but you better believe when they rule against you that what ever the it was for will be implemented before they leave the meeting. Are city, like your county, has TONS of money but are always crying that their soooo poor and can't give us raises equal to similar size city's with the same income. Oh, but our city manager is the highest paid city manager in Palm Beach County. Figure that one out. I can't complain to much about my pay because it is decent, but a new person can't afford to buy a residence here. The funny thing too is that our secretary, who really only answers phones, makes just over 50k a year which is just less than I would make if I wasn't a medic. And we've worked for the city for the same 7 years.

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    Same here, our new guys cannot make ends meet. I really hate politicians with a passion!!
    Last edited by gigafire; 06-07-2007 at 07:12 PM. Reason: spelling

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    does anybody know anything about the hiring situation in polk county? I just moved down here from Detroit (where they just layed off about 300 firefighters a couple years back and are in a giant hiring freeze) and I start the academy in September. More important than me finding a job, I'm really hoping counties don't start laying people off at all. People have families to support and from only a short time living here, all stations seem to busier than can be believed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gigafire View Post
    Here in Orange County we are putting through our last recruit class then the freeze is on, and as far as our contract negotiations go... we're screwed! I think that we are the 4th largest FD in the state and our starting FF/EMTs make appx. $36,000.00 a year. Our Union took the County before a Special Master who ruled that we should have pay parity with other FDs of similiar size and services and that the County should give us a STEP PLAN!! Well needless to say we will not hold our breath for any of that. Hell, I guess that I should be gratefull that there will be no layoffs. I hope that NO firefighters in Florida get laid off PERIOD!! Orange County has a TON of money and know they got the perfect excuse to KEEP screwing us. Shame on you Mayor Crotty and Chief Plaugher!!
    The last recruiting class you are refering to, are they the "new hires" from last April? I recalled seeing vacancies in April for FF/EMT and FF/MEDICs at OCFRD.
    I couldn't apply at the time because I didn't have my EMT-Basic state cert. Now, I mailed out an application last week to Orange County after a retired Fire officer with connections to Orlando Area FDs - told me that there are going to be hirings because of the usual reasons, promotions, retirements, injuries, and resignations, and terminations, etc.
    I hope my timing to mail out my application is right.
    This whole thing with the tax reform is all confusing to me. In the beginning, I understand the whole reason why citizens pay property taxes is for public safety, right?
    It is discouraging to me because I finished Fire School and earned my fire standards last February. Last summer when I started fire training, I had no idea that this was all happening.
    All the talk of possible hiring freezes, or lay offs sounds like B.S. With all do respect to some on here, I hope you are not spread bad rumors. I don't know what you are trying gain from it.
    I am saying this because this whole property tax reform has been soooo politicized to the max. Every government agency and department apart from Public Safety are sh*tt^ng bricks because they're gonna have to cut.
    In my local paper, I read a quote from a Tallahassee legislator (I am paraphrasing) "there's room to trim fat and preserve public safety". To me that code that everone has to cut to keep the "non-public safety" agencies happy.
    I am amazed that politicians will risk citizens to have inadequate manpower for Police and Fire. They better hope that they are no crime waves or wildfires burning down cities.
    I am sorry for venting, but all this B.S. to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dell205 View Post
    The last recruiting class you are refering to, are they the "new hires" from last April? I recalled seeing vacancies in April for FF/EMT and FF/MEDICs at OCFRD.
    I couldn't apply at the time because I didn't have my EMT-Basic state cert. Now, I mailed out an application last week to Orange County after a retired Fire officer with connections to Orlando Area FDs - told me that there are going to be hirings because of the usual reasons, promotions, retirements, injuries, and resignations, and terminations, etc.
    I hope my timing to mail out my application is right.
    This whole thing with the tax reform is all confusing to me. In the beginning, I understand the whole reason why citizens pay property taxes is for public safety, right?
    It is discouraging to me because I finished Fire School and earned my fire standards last February. Last summer when I started fire training, I had no idea that this was all happening.
    All the talk of possible hiring freezes, or lay offs sounds like B.S. With all do respect to some on here, I hope you are not spread bad rumors. I don't know what you are trying gain from it.
    I am saying this because this whole property tax reform has been soooo politicized to the max. Every government agency and department apart from Public Safety are sh*tt^ng bricks because they're gonna have to cut.
    In my local paper, I read a quote from a Tallahassee legislator (I am paraphrasing) "there's room to trim fat and preserve public safety". To me that code that everone has to cut to keep the "non-public safety" agencies happy.
    I am amazed that politicians will risk citizens to have inadequate manpower for Police and Fire. They better hope that they are no crime waves or wildfires burning down cities.
    I am sorry for venting, but all this B.S. to me.


    how are you amazed that politicians will "risk citizens having inadequate manpower for police and fire??" No politician is going to give a crap, until it happens to him. I could care less WHAT the polticians say, this WILL affect public safety regardless. This guy isn't spreading bad rumors man. Everyone is on a hiring freeze because of the unknown, not neccessarily because there are/will be cuts. so there is some good news there, nothing has happened.....yet. And talk about frustration, i feel ya guys, ive gone through EMT, fire,and am now over halfway through medic school and busting my balls trying to get a job in central FL. Life sucks sometimes, all this hardwork and nothing to show for it, except a job at a private ambulance company.....(sighs).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dell205 View Post
    Hello everyone
    I was at an my EMT clinical with a Fire Rescue and I was having a conversation with a Firefighter/medic. He was passing on to me "fire department" scuttle-butt about his fire department will have their last hiring class because they will have hiring freeze. This is in reference to the Florida Property Tax reform controversy up at the state capitol. The concern is that Fire Department's budget will be affected for the property tax reform.
    The firefighter's bleak outlook of the future has made me very skeptical.

    How can Fire Departments function if they have to personnel issues if they experience retirements, terminations, or medical leaves? Fire and even Police Departments still need to hire new people. Has anyone heard about this?

    Thanks.
    Dell this is not B.S. What kills me is that these local governments stock piled money during the 2002-2006 real estate boom. They have the money, they are just typical politicians and are crying broke. Here in Orange County we have been fighting tooth and nail for a fair contract for the past several years even when the county was drowning in money. As far as the recruit classes go, we have one going through right now and they are safe for now. We will not be putting anymore through though for awhile. DO NOT give up and keep your head high, this will come to pass and you will get your job. Most departments are understaffed and we don't even know if this tax reform will get the 60% votes it needs. It really is a stupid idea and if you read alot of the newspapers forums on the subject, the tax payers aren't buying it. Meanwhile, keep going to school and take as many classes as you can, i.e.- Paramedic, Fire Science, etc. Oh yea, DO NOT get any speeding tickets. See ya on the big one!!

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    Same things happening down in Miami Dade County. What's up with florida man? Just my luck i'm on the list to get hired too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gigafire View Post
    Dell this is not B.S. What kills me is that these local governments stock piled money during the 2002-2006 real estate boom. They have the money, they are just typical politicians and are crying broke. Here in Orange County we have been fighting tooth and nail for a fair contract for the past several years even when the county was drowning in money. As far as the recruit classes go, we have one going through right now and they are safe for now. We will not be putting anymore through though for awhile. DO NOT give up and keep your head high, this will come to pass and you will get your job. Most departments are understaffed and we don't even know if this tax reform will get the 60% votes it needs. It really is a stupid idea and if you read alot of the newspapers forums on the subject, the tax payers aren't buying it. Meanwhile, keep going to school and take as many classes as you can, i.e.- Paramedic, Fire Science, etc. Oh yea, DO NOT get any speeding tickets. See ya on the big one!!
    Thanks for your words of encouragement Gigafire.
    I plan on trying to make myself more marketable as possible by continuing on with schooling (Fire/EMS).
    Yeah, the Florida Counties have definitely made a killing on earned revenue from the real estate boom years of '02-'06 and there is a plenty of greed going around. Yes, the property taxes will now be cut, I just can't understand why no one has pointed out that thousands of people are still moving into the state and still buying real estate and opening new businesses, I will concede that the rate of people moving in has reduced for obvious reasons, rising taxes, insurance. so on. But, Florida is still getting more tax payers at the same time.
    Let's all hope for the better as things settle down.

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    All of you guys trying to get hired check out the Seminole Tribe of Florida. A friend of mine told me that they are one of the only FD's in S.Fla still hiring. They are exempt from the tax reforms, 24/72 and lots of details. The only problem is their not IAFF, which is a BIG problem.

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