SAN MIGUEL FIRE BOARD APPROVES CAL FIRE COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT

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The following details were provided in a press release from the district, which has been plagued by budget shortfalls, contentious public meetings, and labor-management disputes in recent years.

September 27, 2012 (Spring Valley) -- The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors voted onSeptember 25 to approve a Cooperative Service Agreement with CAL FIRE. The Board voted unanimously to approve  the five and a half-year agreement. Board President Chris Winter said, “This Cooperative Agreement allows the District to proceed with a balanced budget, maintain the current level of service for our residents and provide for the long-term viability of the District.

President Winter said, “It is important for residents to know the transition of firefighters from San Miguel to CAL FIRE will be as seamless as possible. As the agreement gets underway the District will continue to provide the same high level of service to the community.”

Both affected labor groups approved of the transition through the Cooperative Agreement. San Miguel Fire Chief Gary Croucher said, “The Board of Directors and our firefighters have put public safety first in this historic decision. The majority of our annual savings will come from the firefighters working longer shifts and the reduction of overtime.” The transition of District firefighters will occur on December 31, 2012.

The San Miguel Fire District and its Board of Directors will remain intact, and the District will continue to own all of its assets. While the District’s suppression personnel will transfer to State employment, several District employees will remain.  These positions would include a Fire Marshal, two Fire Inspectors, a Business Services Manager, a Secretary, a Fleet Maintenance Supervisor, a Fire Apparatus Mechanic and a Public Information Officer.

BACKGROUND

The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District is experiencing its fourth year of declining revenue vs. expenditures. The District has lost about 20 percent (about $2.5 million) of its property tax revenue since 2009. Ninety-seven percent of the District’s revenue comes from property taxes. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, the District was facing a budget shortfall of approximately $1.6 million. Since the current economic crisis began the District has reduced expenses by millions of dollars. Reductions included:

  • Permanent closure of Engine 15.
  • Station 23 shifted temporarily to a two-person Medic Squad from a three person engine.
  • Significant employee givebacks, which included increasing the amount employees contribute to pensions as well as paying a greater share of their medical benefits. Other concessions included the elimination of Holiday pay for rank and file employees, decreased leave earn rates, the reduction of overtime and implementation of furlough days. Reductions in personnel.
  • Significant reductions in overall expenditures.

In an attempt to eliminate the structural budget deficit and maintain the existing level of direct emergency services, the Board of Directors authorized a Request for Proposal be issued to surrounding fire agencies.  This in turn led to the CAL FIRE proposal. The primary objective of the Board of Directors and the Fire Chief is to ensure that the citizens and businesses of the San Miguel Fire District receive the best level of service possible within the resources available. During the course of the contract, the San Miguel Board of Directors will monitor all aspects of CAL FIRE’s performance to help ensure service levels for residents remain at the high quality expected.

The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District is the largest fire district in San Diego County. The District was formed on July 1, 1988 through a merger of the Spring Valley and the Grossmont/Mt. Helix Fire Protection Districts, and again on July 3, 2008 with the East County Fire Protection District.

The District has grown over the past 20 years in commercial businesses, housing density and population. The District provides suppression, prevention and emergency medical services to approximately 134,000 residents. Our suppression force responds to approximately 9,000 fire and medical-related emergencies annually, serving the Communities of Bostonia, Casa de Oro, Crest, Grossmont/Mt. Helix, La Presa, Rancho San Diego, Spring Valley, and unincorporated areas of El Cajon and La Mesa.

Comments

Things Left out of the Press Release

 

On the September 25th Board meeting OUR San Miguel Fire Board voted UNANIMOUSLY 7-0 with all members voting YES to enter into a 5-1/2 year $68 MILLION DOLLAR contract with Cal-Fire.

Not only does this mean that our community loses the ability to hire or fire the Fire Chief, regardless of his performance but our Fire Fighters will be forced to transition from a 56 hour work week to a 72 hour work week.  Not only do these long hours with a very real possibility of our firefighters getting no sleep for up to three consecutive days pose a serious risk to their safety it also poses a risk to our safety.  Consider that same firefighter having to make life and death decisions regarding the treatment of say, a serious automobile accident victim.  Would you like to have your emergency care provider administrating first aid to you while having had little or no sleep for the last three days?  This really could happen to YOU....

Even with this abysmal financial failure, the Board did not volunteer to give up their free dental insurance paid for by us.  They also did not volunteer to give up their free cell phone data plan paid for by, you guessed it, we the taxpaying community.  THEY decided to keep their perks, they must really believe they deserve them.

I spoke with San Miguel Fire Department management and asked him, “Did you run a scenario where we keep control of the Department and just transition to a longer work week and see if that make enough of a difference with the budget to  work.  Unfortunately that answer was no, he did no such analysis.  I asked the Board if they directed anyone on staff to run a longer work week scenario to see if that would help save our Department, not one Board member answered that they pursued that course action.

I believe this Board has some great fire fighting experience, knowledge and background, but unfortunately, right now, we need a Board members with proven budget management experience.

It’s not really that hard, you start by renegotiate all of the Departments contracts, you’ll be able to save 5-10% on the contracts just by doing that.  You get rid of everything non-essential to our job of protecting our community.  You talk with labor, in good faith, we only have so much money, we can’t put ourselves in a position where we bounce checks at the end of the year, we must live within our means.  I do believe our firefighters would be willing to negotiate with us in good faith once we’ve shown we’ve gotten rid of all the fluff in our expenditures, once we’ve cut to the bone they will know we’re also bargaining in good faith.

We currently employ a Public Information Officer.  He is paid including his benefits about $140,000/year.  He’s been working for this Department over 5 years.  Just one more thing, he gets health insurance for life after just five years, our Board approved that.  His total cost to the people he works for during those five years, is around $700,000.  I’m not suggesting his work isn’t excellent, or the services he provides to our community aren't valuable, but in these hard times of dramatically reduced revenue‘s, we simply couldn’t afford him.  $700,000 dollars is a lot of money, money which we now desperately need.

The Board of Directors also saw fit to hire Chief Gio, our last Fire Chief.  He supervised a staff of about 84 people.  The Governor of California, Gerry Brown, supervises a staff of over 250,000 people, over a quarter of a million people.  Who would you guess makes the higher salary.  If you guessed Chief Gio made the higher salary you would be CORRECT.  This Board hired him, negotiated his salary and paid him for over five years.  We we need a Board member with proven budget management experience right now. 

This poor judgement shown by our Board is what has motivated me to run for the Board.  If you would like more information about me please check out my web site:  www.williamkiel.com

 

Thanks

Yup

Yup, you are all toast now as far as determining your future. Jusk ask the departments "absorbed" into the San Diego County , paper, Fire Authority collective. ( Resistance is frutile.) Only good news for you is Cal Fire people are good people and good at what they do. They will probably cull out your careed dead beats like they did when they took over Rural Fire years ago.

The Spin is In...

This article is the happy-talk version of events.  The SMGFire Board of Directors has been dysfunctional and fiscally incompetent for years and years. They should be sued for deriliction of their fudiciary duty. 

They have NEVER been able to say "NO" to a fire chief and his excesses, and they didn't.  They have relied on a fraudster for their their financial advice.  This guy will get lifetime benefits for all his "assistance."

Then there was the County's grand plan to have the biggest and bestest fire department.  They worked at acquiring SMGFire with hooks and crooks, and they were successful. 

Short story...the County and CalFire stole this district from its real owners, the residents who paid for it...but they never could have done it without assistance from this Board of Doofi, Chief Ghio, and SMGFirefighters who aided and abetted this takeover.

 

I've clarified that this post was based on a press release

from the District and added a notation that this district has been plagued by bitter disputes and budget shortfalls in recent years. Charlene raised some points of contention; others have suggested the Board could have reduced the number of members from seven to five and that management should have taken larger cuts.  Some have also faulted the district for expending large sums on a training center, where SDG&E funds only covered a portion of the actual costs.

On the other side of the coin, property tax revenues have fallen, making the budget crunch worse.