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Date of Issue: August 09, 2007

Fire commission to hold budget hearing

West Manatee Fire Rescue District is considering a 2007-08 budget that lacks major purchases or new personnel, according to WMFR Chief Andy Price.

 Commissioners will convene a public hearing on the proposed 2007-08 budget for the West Manatee Fire Rescue District on Thursday, Aug. 16. The hearing will take place at 6 p.m. at WMFR Station No. 1, 6001 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

WMFR commissioners have already set an increased assessment rate for 2007-08, resulting in a base residential assessment of $139.37 for the first 1,000 square feet of living space.

Three Manatee County fire districts, like the municipal governments and the school district, receive ad valorem property taxes. WMFR does not receive such taxes and, therefore, was not directly impacted by the property tax reform package approved by state lawmakers this year.

Still, the district is limited on how high assessments can go up - state law allows WMFR to raise assessments by the 5-year average of the Florida Personal Income Growth.

“We can only allow for an income increase of at or below the income growth factor,” Price said in his budget presentation. “This factor ranges from 4 percent to 7 percent and means we will be limited in the future and will struggle to maintain what we have.”

The assessment increase will produce an estimated increase in revenue of $266,321 for the new year, which begins Oct. 1.

Based on that, Price proposed a 2007-08 balanced budget with operating expenses and revenues at $5.3 million. Wages and benefits make up 81.45 percent of the projected operating expenses and taxes and fees generate 95.5 percent of the projected revenue.

WMFR’s budget consists of 12 major expense categories - wages and benefits, maintenance, insurance, training, office expenses, supplies, utilities, fire prevention, capital expenditures, special services, debt service and miscellaneous.

The 2007-08 budget does not provide for any new positions, but it does allow for a 4 percent increase in pay and benefits, as well as salary adjustments.

The budget contains estimated increases for both health insurance and workers compensation expenses - true numbers will not be available until after the budget is adopted.

The proposed wages and benefits expense is $4.3 million.

Other proposed expenses are maintenance, $145,000; insurances, $60,000; training, $43,000; office expenses, $12,000; supplies, $26,500; utilities, $118,600; fire prevention, $15,000; capital costs, $112,500; special services, $217,188; debt service, $200,000; and miscellaneous, $34,226.

The largest cost in maintenance is for vehicles, budgeted at $80,000. In utilities, the largest cost is fuel, budgeted at $50,000. And, under capital expenditures, the largest costs are for protective equipment and communication equipment - $15,000 budgeted for each.

On the revenue side, the proposed budget projects collecting $5 million in taxes, $100 in permits, $6,000 in inspection fees, $130,000 in interest and $104,500 in reimbursements.

In addition to general revenues, WMFR has two funds available for certain uses - an impact fee fund to be used for new equipment and facilities and a Stearns Scholarship fund to be used for fire or police academy tuition.

WMFR recently raised its impact fees on new construction with the approval of voters in November and the Legislature in the spring.

The estimated balance of the impact fee fund for Oct. 1 is $95,000 and the estimated balance of the scholarship fund is $9,900.