Eastside Fire & Rescue proposes 2.6 percent budget increase

September 27, 2011

By Ari Cetron

Wage and health insurance costs are the prime drivers of a proposed 2.6 percent increase in Eastside Fire & Rescue’s proposed 2012 budget. Some board members, however, said they wonder if parts of the projected budget may be off.

EFR’s board got its first look at the $21.5 million spending plan Sept. 19. The budget is about $546,000 more than last year.

The lion’s share is a 2 percent increase in salaries, which will translate into about $435,000. Benefit costs, including a 6 percent increase in medical costs, will mean about a $130,000 increase in that spending category.

Eastside Fire & Rescue costs

North Bend — $808,000 — 4.9 percent increase

District 10 — $7.3 million — 3.1 percent increase

Issaquah — $5 million — 3.1 percent increase

Sammamish — $5.9 million — 4 percent increase

District 38 — $1.4 million — 2.4 percent increase

Some of the extra costs, however, are offset by a reduction in communications fees, said Scott Faires, budget finance analyst for EFR.

EFR Director Tom Odell, of Sammamish, questioned the assumptions surrounding ambulance services and fees. EFR collects a fee for transporting patients to the hospital via ambulance, and just instituted an additional mileage fee based on how far they transport patients. The fees are largely borne by insurance providers, and EFR does not deny people transport if they are unable to pay.

Odell noted that new Swedish/Issaquah hospital will likely change ambulance usage for much of the EFR coverage area. Since many injured and sick people will no longer be taken to Overlake Hospital Medical Center, it will mean fewer miles traveled. It will also change the availability of ambulance services, since the shorter trip means they will be able to return to service more quickly.

Odell suggested that the board should look more closely at the budget’s revenue forecasts in the light of those changing circumstances.

EFR Director Don Gerend, of Sammamish, also questioned the size of the EFR reserve fund. He noted that EFR’s target number is about $1.8 million, but the agency has about $2.4 million in reserve. Some of that will likely be spent, but Gerend questioned putting more money into an already full reserve.

EFR’s Finance and Operations Committee will begins discussion of the budget next month, and the full board is expected to adopt a budget in November or December.

Ari Cetron: 392-6434, ext. 233, or samrev@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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