Nevada County Consolidated Fire District officials said the agency needs to establish reserve funds to protect it from a financial disaster, while better planning is needed to ensure the district is still operating in the black in coming years.
“We are one accident short of being broke,” said Fire Chief Adolf Zubia during the last regular meeting of the agency’s board of directors. “The way our future financial picture is developing, I think it is critical.”
The chief set forth the goal to create an operational reserve that would see the board contribute enough funds to build the balance to $400,000 over a three-year period.
“We are hoping to address this in next year’s budget,” Zubia said. “It gives us a three-year timeline to build that particular amount. It’s a goal, not a mandate.”
The board unanimously endorsed the program with Chairman Warren Knox saying the agency should go further and also set up a capital reserve program.
“We’ve got a long-term planning issue coming down the pike that has to do with CalPERS,” Knox said. “My guess is that it will affect the district to the tune of $300,000 to $400,000 over the next four years.”
Knox said there is no less than the future viability of the fire district at stake as Zubia and his new administrative team scramble to compile a five-year financial projection that incorporates and anticipates impacts such as pension costs and other mandates.
“You see our budget right now — we are somewhere within the neighborhood of $50,000 to $80,000 of being solvent,” Knox said. “I think … we will have to live with the fact that we can’t be all things to all people. Living within a budget will force decisions that perhaps nobody likes.”
Knox did not delve into specifics, as it will be a collective board decision, but the implementation of wholesale changes “will require an extremely competent coordination between different agencies.”
Consolidated Fire has several capital projects that need to be considered, Knox said. The most pressing, according to officials, is the project to pave the driveway at Station 86, which is perched atop Banner Mountain.
The accumulation of snow and ice has chipped, cracked and chunked the pavement, which damages vehicles and presents a hazard to firefighters, said Shawn Entz, a Consolidated firefighter who formerly worked as a contractor.
The district had undergone the request for proposal process and received two responsible bids, but some technicalities in the legal language will force the agency to restart the RFP process.
The district still aims to complete the project before the encroaching winter season necessitates a postponement until the spring thaw.
Consolidated Fire is continuing negotiations with Local 3800 Union representatives with an eye toward hammering out a new agreement between the fire district and the rank and file firefighters over matters such as pay, pension, vacation and health benefits.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
“We are one accident short of being broke. The way our future financial picture is developing, I think it is critical.”
Fire Chief Adolf Zubia