EFR could ask for more funding from cities

June 14, 2011

By Caleb Heeringa

Eastside Fire & Rescue may need more than a 4 percent increase in funding from its partners in 2012.

The agency’s administration presented its draft budget to board members at their June 9 meeting. The budget predicts an $855,000 increase in expenses, due to more than $600,000 in increased labor and benefit costs.

Deputy Chief Wes Collins said the projected wage increases are a best guess by the administration, based on current cost-of-living rates.

The agency is in negotiations with its firefighters’ union and hopes to arrange for the current labor contract to be renewed for several more years, Collins said. If the existing contract is not extended and the agency and union start from scratch on a new contract, EFR may have to budget a placeholder amount until negotiations wrap up later in 2012.

The current labor contract calls for firefighters to receive wage increases based on how they compare to firefighters in neighboring departments. In years past, this has led to automatic wage increases of 3 percent or 4 percent. But the union agreed to freeze its wages in 2010 and took a 0.2 percent increase in 2011.

Just like last year, Sammamish’s representatives on the board, Mayor Don Gerend and Deputy Mayor Tom Odell, have asked that the agency draft alternative budgets that show what would happen if the partners had a smaller 2 percent increase or no increase at all in their EFR bill.

The agency’s finance and operations committee will work on the budget in the coming months before bringing it before the board again this fall.

EFR provides firefighting and emergency response services to Issaquah, Sammamish, North Bend and nearby areas of unincorporated King County represented by fire districts 10 and 38. Its board of directors decides on a budget, and each partner pays a portion of that budget based on the property values within its area.

Caleb Heeringa: 392-6434. ext. 247, or cheeringa@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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