Nevada County Consolidated fire chief resigns after three months on the job
Nevada County Consolidated Fire Chief Adolf Zubia, who has been at the helm of the fire district for just three months, announced his resignation Tuesday at a board meeting meant to focus on the district’s budget projections.
Zubia said his resignation is effective Nov. 30.
“The gist is very simple,” Zubia said. “I wanted progress, and we were getting progress — but maybe not at the rate it needs to occur … There are some good people here … but some things are slowing down the progress.”
In a prepared statement, Zubia said he had enjoyed the job and the challenges in his short time as the fire chief.
“I appreciate the members of the fire district who dedicate their time and effort to enhance the safety of the community they serve,” he said.
In October, Zubia told The Union he had been on the job long enough to know that turning around the floundering fire district would require some hard work.
“(The job) is probably more than I had gauged in the initial assessment,” Zubia said at the time. “But it’s all good. I think the best thing that I have is my staff. Things are moving forward; my only complaint is: not fast enough.”
Chairman Warren Knox said at the time the district has “a long ways to go before we can feel comfortable about how the district is operated the way it should be.”
In June, the Nevada County Civil Grand Jury filed a report deeming the board had been derelict in its performance; the district found fault with the report in a response filed in August.
Zubia noted Tuesday that he was leaving his position voluntarily, and the district, therefore, will not owe him anything under his contract; he said the board likely will discuss finding a replacement at its next regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 21.
Board chairman Knox did not return a call for comment on the resignation.
After announcing his departure, Zubia and temporary finance manager Jeff Van Groningen presented a five-year budget projection that delivered a bleak financial picture.
Van Groningen said the projected revenues assumed a 1 percent increase each year in property tax income, even though there have been several years of significant decreases in that revenue.
The projection assumed a 7.4 percent increase in state aid every year, as well as a 3 percent increase each year in revenue from the special tax and special assessment.
All expense projections included a 3 percent increase each year, which does not reflect any possible salary increases after the union negotiations currently in progress.
Medical insurance was projected to increase by 3.6 percent each year due to a new policy starting Dec. 1.
And retirement benefits reflected a projected ramp-up by the state PERS system, Van Groningen said, saying the district will be contributing 47 percent at the end of five years, including the 9 percent employee contribution the district currently picks up.
Van Groningen noted that building a reserve, which had been discussed by the board, was not included in the budget projection because of the anticipated shortfall.
An $81,500 deficit was projected for 2013-14. Anticipated deficits for 2014-15 and 2015-16 — if needed vehicles were financed rather than purchased — balloon to $211,000 and $231,000, respectively. Projected deficits jump to nearly $480,000 for FY 2016-17 and $498,000 in 2017-19 and to more than $800,000 in 2018-19.
Zubia noted they discussed deferring some of the major capital expenditures, but those would have to be absorbed by the district at some point.
According to Zubia, the fire district made a strategic political decision two years ago when it asked voters to pass a special tax of only $52 a year.
“They thought it was safe, but given the future needs — they needed what they got, but I don’t think they calculated the needs for the future,” he said.
Board treasurer Mark Bass said the budget projection will probably be discussed at the next meeting but said potential solutions will take a little longer.
“What we should take away from the projection is that we have big decisions to make in the future,” he said.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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