Bartlett Fire District says if tax hike vetoed, staff cuts will likely follow

  • Bartlett Fire Protection District officials Tuesday discussed a 2018 ballot request for a tax increase as well as a specific plan to cut staff members if that were rejected by voters.

    Bartlett Fire Protection District officials Tuesday discussed a 2018 ballot request for a tax increase as well as a specific plan to cut staff members if that were rejected by voters. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted6/28/2017 5:30 AM

Losing one fire engine, along with the three firefighters per shift who operate it, would be the probable outcome if another Bartlett Fire Protection District referendum for a property-tax hike were rejected next spring.

This also would trigger a rotating closure of one of the district's three stations throughout the year, Fire Chief Michael Falese said.

 

District trustees had spoken in only general terms last spring when they claimed services would have to be cut if voters turned down an April 4 request for a tax increase.

Next time, trustees said Tuesday, they'll have no choice but to be more specific.

The five trustees and Falese met to discuss their financial options after 59.5 percent of voters said no to this year's request for a 19.5 percent tax-levy increase.

Trustees said they'll likely vote at their next meeting July 19 to put a new referendum on the March 20, 2018 ballot.

Though that should give the district more time to educate residents of the need, the exact size of the requested increase won't have to be determined until ballot-filing in December, board President James McCarthy said.

But Falese already identified what would need to happen from a financial and operational standpoint if voters said no again.

His plan would reduce the number of responders per shift from 14 to 11.

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The three per shift that would be cut are the one "paid-on-premises" firefighter and two private contractors who provide a lower-cost supplement to the 10 more experienced union employees and battalion chief.

Because the district's three engines and two ambulances require a specific number of people, the only way to reduce staffing effectively is to take a whole vehicle out of operation, Falese said. Otherwise, the district must pay overtime to fill the vacancy on the vehicle.

The district's core problem, Falese said, is its increasing volume of calls combined with its extremely low tax rate, as compared to other fire districts.

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