The Falcon Fire Protection District Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting Nov. 19. All board members were present except for Joan Hathcock, who was granted an excused absence. Richard Shearer, legal counsel for the district, was not present.
Volunteer pension board meeting
All trustees for the volunteer pension board were present except for Joan Hathcock.
Fire Chief Trent Harwig discussed the pension fund’s quarterly statements, 2018 fund performance and projections for 2019. An actuarial study of the fund will be conducted in 2019. The district is currently contributing $30,000 a year to the volunteer pension fund, and the study will show whether the amount is sufficient. Harwig said any adjustment to district contributions and/or pension benefits resulting from the actuarial study would be made in 2020.
The volunteer pension board approved the 2019 pension budget, and adopted a resolution defining pension benefits for the coming year.
Harwig reported that the fiscal year was 83 percent complete as of Oct. 31. The district had received 98 percent of its anticipated revenue. Expenditures across all general fund categories were at 74 percent.
The Capital Projects Fund had received 104 percent of its anticipated revenue, while expenditures were at 42 percent. Harwig said the new engine is scheduled for final inspection Dec. 5 and 6, with delivery still expected before the end of the year. The final payment will be slightly less than budgeted because the manufacturer missed the original delivery date and is under a $250 per day penalty until the engine is delivered.
Harwig reported that voters approved the district’s mill levy ballot measure. He said a citizen’s group called the Friends of Falcon Fire received about $5,000 in donations to promote the mill levy increase. As a result, the mill levy will adjust next year from 8.612 to 14.886 mills. Harwig said the county must certify the ballot by the end of November.
Harwig said that Gov. John Hickenlooper was expected to ask the state Supreme Court whether one constitutional amendment can take precedence over another, specifically how the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the Gallagher Amendment interact. Harwig said it does not change the fact that the statewide residential assessment rate will drop again next year. “What’s already gone wrong has gone wrong,” he said.
Harwig reported that reservists logged 1,059 standby hours in October, and there were no station “brownouts.”
FFPD had 214 calls for service in October, which was a 6.1 percent decrease from October 2017. As of Oct. 31, the district had 2,237 calls for service, which represents a 10 percent increase over the same period last year.
U.S. Highway 24 and Meridian Road intersection
Director Tom Kerby reported that both the county and state are still in the land acquisition phase for this project. The county will possibly begin construction in June.
Harwig reported that the Sands development, which consists of property surrounding FFPD Station 4, has been annexed by the city of Colorado Springs.
Harwig presented the 2019 general fund budget. He estimates that the district will receive $5,698,000 in revenue from the mill levy. He pointed out that the beginning general fund balance is $2,336,000, while the ending balance is $2,741,000, explaining that the $405,000 difference comes from the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant awarded to the district by the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
The SAFER grant provides partial funding for nine full-time firefighter/emergency medical technicians. Harwig said the mill levy increase would cover those additional employees without the grant. However, the grant will allow the fire district to use the funds it would have set aside for personnel needs for other needs such as paying down the Station 4 lease-purchase agreement to reduce the amount of interest paid on that loan.
Harwig and board members discussed whether to create a separate fund similar to the district’s Capital Projects Fund for tracking revenue and expenditures related to ambulance service, or if creating a separate category under the general fund would suffice. Harwig said the creation of a separate account would create administrative challenges, and noted that the state does not require that a separate fund be established for this purpose. Board members expressed the importance of transparency and accountability to the public. The board decided that creating a separate category under the general fund to track expenses and collections would be sufficient as long as it is acceptable to the District’s legal counsel and auditor. Director Dan Kupferer said, “I think it’s critical that we be able to show the citizens what we’re doing.”
The 2019 budget includes $1 million for apparatus, including two ambulances and a new engine, Harwig said. The ambulances cost about $220,000 apiece, including cots equipped with power lift systems. The engine is the third and last to be ordered as part of the scheduled replacement of aging vehicles. “We’re done with engines for another 10 years,” he said, adding that the district’s tenders should be good for another 10 years. He anticipates the only future purchases should be brush trucks, utility vehicles, or staff vehicles. Harwig said the district will continue to set money aside for those expenses.
The budget includes replacement of all District Automated External Defibrillator units, which are outdated and no longer supported by the manufacturer, Harwig said. He said the district’s 12-lead cardiac monitors and LUCAS chest compression devices will be transferred from the engines to the ambulances. Harwig said that Advanced Life Support equipment will not be maintained on the engines until such time as the district staffs ALS personnel on the engines.
Other highlights of the 2019 budget included the annual lease-purchase payment for Station 4; sewer, water and parking lot resurfacing at Station 3; changing the district’s mechanic position from part-time to full-time; hiring an Emergency Medical Services division chief to oversee the district’s EMS and ambulance programs; and hiring an additional six paramedics and six EMTs to staff the ambulances. Harwig noted that the nine firefighter/EMTs hired under the SAFER grant will start Jan. 1, and subsequent hiring of line and staff personnel will be spread out over the year. Harwig said the goal is to have the first of the ambulances in service by the fourth quarter of 2019, noting it will take time set up vehicles and billing; hire and train personnel, etc.
Harwig said the district must certify its mill levy with the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners by Dec 15. The FFPD board will approve the 2019 budget, mill levy and expenditures at its next meeting on Dec. 12.