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WMFR budget holds line

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

The West Manatee Fire Rescue District aims to hold the line in its 2012-13 budget, while covering jumps in both health care and workers compensation rates.

        The district commissioners viewed a proposed budget at their July meeting that “didn’t change a lot,” said WMFR Chief Andy Price.

        The budget is expected to be approved at the Aug. 16 WMFR board meeting.

        The total operating budget is $5,527,457, up $114,361 or 2.1 percent from the 2011-12 budget. The total capital reserve is $4,593,849, up $731,155, or 18 percent.

        Income breaks down to $5,391,207 in assessments, $6,000 in inspection fees and miscellaneous and $99,500 in reimbursements. The budget includes $30,750 in interest income, a 14 percent reduction from the current budget, according to Price.

        “We’re going to be having nice additions to the training station” behind Station 2 on Cortez Road, he said.

        On the expense side, the 2012-13 budget includes $152,750 in workers compensation and $490,500 in health insurance costs, compared to $111,538 and $460,600 respectively in this year’s budget.

        For employees, the budget includes a 2 percent cost-of-living raise and some salary adjustments to ensure competitiveness among other fire service agencies, but no benefit changes, according to Price.

        The 2012-13 budget proposes a 4.9 percent increase, or $607,132, in retirement benefits, compared to $578,374 this year.

        To fund the 2012-13 budget, West Manatee Fire District commissioners increased the district’s assessment roughly $4 per household at a May 17 public hearing.

        The hike represents a 2.5 percent increase, below this year’s 3.16 percent assessment cap as determined by Florida’s personal income growth factor.

        Commissioners are expected to approve the budget at the next public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, at the WMFR administrative office, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

WMFR pension switches strategy

        The West Manatee Fire Rescue District Pension Board looked at disappointing returns at its July 26 meeting, and likely will make changes in investments at the board’s next meeting.

        “We’re dropping a huge, huge negative,” said member Dan Tackett of the district’s pension fund investment performance report for the second quarter.

        Jack Evatt, Bogdahn Group consultant and district investment monitor, recognized the negative, especially in the international equity markets even though the economy is healthier than a year ago.

        Evatt and board members discussed the upheaval in Western Europe’s markets and future earnings. On the domestic side, Evatt expected stagnation in the markets, with businesses putting off hiring until after the elections.

        Evatt also previewed recommendations for the October meeting.

        He said he will likely recommend different fund managers and spreading out the district’s current investments into mutual funds to compliment the conservative strategy of the district.

        “If you’re dropping a negative this year, and there’s a number very close to zero the year after that,” the district won’t get to its benchmark “unless we see something miraculous,” he said.

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