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Fire district board OKs budget

The South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners on Monday night approved the fire district’s 2006-07 operating budget, which is nearly $10 million and represents a 1.35 percent increase from last year.

Chief Wayne Senter presented the $9.98 million budget as “balanced,” explaining that he was predicting a 1.24 percent increase in revenue.

This year, the budget process was followed step-by-step for the first time by a Community Budget Review Committee (CBRC), which allowed citizens a first-hand look at how it is created.

“I would like to thank the district staff for putting in so much extra time to answering questions and finding information for the committee and (the commissioners),” said Commissioner Paul Golnik. “It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.”

Nearly a third of the district’s budget is dedicated to paying the salaries (and overtime) of its firefighter/EMTs, with more than 3.5 million allocated for salaries and overtime for 18 lieutenants and 30 firefighters.

For 2007, that cost is expected to rise to more than four million, since the district factored in $415,000 to pay for nine additional firefighters it hopes to be able to hire with the help of a federal SAFER grant.

Board chair Dusty Wiley noted that while the grant will provide $900,000 over fours years to pay part of the nine firefighters’ salaries, the fire district will still have to come up with $2.3 million to pay the rest.

“That is why we need to put a levy lid lift on the ballot next spring,” Senter said, to which Wiley asked what would happen if the voters turned down the measure, as they have done three times in a row.

“But we’re not obligated to take the grant. Can we refuse it if it does not come out in a favorable vote?” Wiley asked, to which Senter said yes, the district could back out of the grant.

Pointing out that while the grant required the new staff to be hired for five years, yet only paid part of the salaries for four of those, Wiley asked “what are we going to do after four years?”

“That is why the temporary lid lift will be for six years, so we can fund them for all five years,” Senter said.

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