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County Commissioners receive update on revenue for fire districts

By ThisIsReno

WASHOE COUNTY NEWS RELEASE

At its regularly scheduled meeting today the Washoe County Board of Commissioners, meeting as the Board of Fire Commissioners, was to receive an update that shows the revenues for Sierra Fire and Truckee Meadows Fire Protection Districts have decreased more than previously forecast, as a result of updated property tax billings.

Property tax revenue is the largest source of funds for both districts, making up 66 percent of their total combined revenues. In a financial status report, the Fire District’s financial consultant was to present a report that shows the decline in Truckee Meadows Fire property taxes for the next fiscal year is projected to nearly double and highlights the need to create a sustainable fire district. Sierra Fire Protection District property tax revenues have also declined as projected.

Mary Walker, who serves as the financial consultant for both fire districts, says the report incorporates the commissioners’ decision to focus on creating sustainable fire districts and accept the consolidation of Truckee Meadows Fire and Sierra Fire administration and operations. “Based on updated projections from the assessor and treasurer for actual property tax billings, for the next fiscal year (2012-13), Truckee Meadows Fire revenue decrease is projected at 9.74 percent, which will exceed $900,000.” Walker continued, “In addition, Sierra Fire revenue is projected to go down 4.83 percent, which will exceed $230,000.”

Previous forecasted revenue reductions and the need to focus on creating a long-term sustainable district were the reasons provided by the Board of Fire Commissioners to terminate the interlocal agreement with the City of Reno for joint operation of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District on June 28, 2011. Projected costs under the proposed contract with the city of Reno were estimated to exhaust virtually all the general fund balances for the district by fiscal year 2013-14.

The original financial projections that the board reviewed in making its decision to withdraw from the interlocal agreement were independently audited, and verified the need to change course from the current contract requirements. Prior to that decision, for nearly two years, Washoe County and city of Reno fire services staff had been meeting to develop modifications to the existing 11-year-old interlocal agreement to reflect changes to the economic and operations environment of the fire districts.

Washoe County Chairman Bob Larkin said this project has been a priority of the board for many years. “Since the start of the great recession in 2007, the revenues for Truckee Meadows Fire have decreased by 25 percent. By consolidating Truckee Meadows Fire and the Sierra Fire Protection District, our financial reports show that the consolidation, combined with planned cost reductions, will produce a revenue surplus by fiscal year 2015-16.”

In 2010, a Fire Services master plan recommended that a Joint Powers Authority agency be formed to provide fire services to the entire region. The Fire Board approved a transition plan in August 2011 that includes more than 150 action items to facilitate the merger between Truckee Meadows and Sierra Fire Protection Districts, with the ultimate goal of a regionalized fire agency. The county provided a proposal to the city of Reno for a regionalized fire agency that includes:

  • Truckee Meadows and Sierra Fire Protection Districts move forward on merger
  • Develop a plan for a sustainable Regional Joint Powers Agreement starting July 2013
  • Develop a one-year service agreement July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013 that includes:
    • Response provided by the closest fire engine (A July 2012 independent analysis reviewed the history of cross-jurisdictional emergency response calls. The report shows that in 2010 there were 1,358 incidents in the city of Reno jurisdiction where TMFPD and SFPD were the closest responding station. This compares to 896 incidents in TMFPD and SFPD jurisdictions where Reno was the closest first responder.)
    • Exchange of facilities and equipment that are mutually beneficial including Reno use of Station 14 (South Meadows) and Truckee Meadows/Sierra Fire providing service for Reno Station 9 (Stead)
    • Explore other service exchanges that are mutually beneficial

The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners, in a 4 to 1 vote (Jung dissenting), started the year-long process to dissolve the interlocal agreement in order to provide for regionalization of fire services and create a sustainable fire district. The detailed transition plan for standing up the consolidated Truckee Meadows/Sierra Fire District can be found at http://www.washoecounty.us/mgrsoff/TMFire.html.

The updated financial report on the Board’s Feb. 28, 2012, agenda provides the data needed to support the decision to create a sustainable fire district. The board has repeatedly restated its commitment to create a sustainable regional fire service that provides services to all interested communities.

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