How does Healdsburg keep its fire services going while dealing with a significant deficit in its General Fund?
That is the question that will be one of the many agenda items during the Healdsburg City Council's March 18 meeting.
During the budget workshops of the 2012-2013 fiscal years, the council directed its staff to revisit ways to delivers fire protection services to the city, while recognizing deficits.
The council recently adopted budgets using reserves and implementing staff cuts, reductions in service and concessions from employees. A staff report points out that Fire Department employees made concessions totaling nearly $1 million and a division chief/training officer position was eliminated in the 2010/2011 budget.
To help with the budget shortfall, the city obtained a grant in the amount of $325,217 to help bring back a engineering position that was previously lost for a period of two years.
But during the 2012-2013 budget sessions the city recognized that the fire department was operating under minimal staffing levels, and thus the council directed its staff to see if there was a way to improve this.
The options in front of the council are:
A standalone fire department -- Continue operating as is, with minimum staffing levels. It would provide the best level of control of staffing and costs, but offer less staffing and equipment resources that the other options.
Regionalization -- Identifying funding resources throughout Sonoma County Fire Districts and Sonoma County service areas, served through contractual fire protection agreements to deliver potential funding resources. Today, the city provides fire contractual fire protection services to Sotoyome and Fitch Mountain County Service areas and receives minimal funding. This option would search for more funding opportunities.
Forming a Joint Powers Authority -- this option would establish a multi-jurisdictional fire agency and call for share governance. This would provide two or three fire agencies coming together as one, sharing funding and resources together.
Shared Services Agreement -- Any number of methods where organizations are doing something together to become more effective or efficient.
Fire Service/Cal Fire Contract -- The city would receive fire services by way of contract with Cal Fire or local agencies.
The council could do nothing, make the staff explore more options, establish a combination of the above, or stick to what it has now.
What do you think the council should do?