Letter: LVFPD needs to budget for equipment from its big lard pot (Opinion)
Measure B is up for a vote. I am voting no because the Lake Valley Fire Protection District spends most of its revenue on salaries and benefits leaving nothing to pay for new equipment.
In private industry, it is standard fiscal practice to allocate resources to pay for maintenance and replacement of equipment before personnel costs are considered.
Unfortunately, LVFPD has waited until the last minute to come to voters for more money. It is not prudent to start saving for the future; when your kid graduates from high school to pay for college, or for retirement, when you hit 65. But that is what this district has essentially done and it holds its lack of planning over the taxpayers’ heads.
In 2018, Lake Valley Fire Protection District spent $5.5 million on salaries and benefits out of a budget of $6.7 million.
This a whopping 82% of their total budget. Firefighters make a lot of money, and have “Cadillac” health and retirement benefits. Retirees can, and do, earn as much or more in retirement as they earned working. Retirement starts at age 55-57 years and CalPers pays 2.75-3% per year worked.
For example, if a firefighter works 30 years times 2.75% times the average of the last two years pay including overtime and other pay, which might be $150,000, then he or she will be entitled to a $123,750 pension annually for life. This is transferable upon death to a spouse.
LVFPD wages/salaries/pensions are over the top in a town where the median household income is under $50,000. According to the State Controller’s Office, two of the LVFPD employees make over $210,000 eleven make over $150k, and 11 more employees make over $100,000 in total pay. We, the taxpayers already fund the LVFPD to the tune of $6.7 million a year.
The parcel tax requested is about $432,000 a year, with no sunset, which is the amount stated that LVFPD needs to buy more equipment according to their 15-year plan. That is less than 6.5% of the total annual budget. There is over $1.1 million paid in overtime and other wages to LVFPD personnel. LVFPD needs to budget for equipment from this big lard pot.
Now, we all love our firemen and paramedics and know they have a job that is, at times, difficult and dangerous. For the safety of residents and firefighters alike, we want LVFPD to have the best equipment possible.
But, and for me it is a big but, there is a lot of fat in the budget and it needs to be rendered and that is why I am voting no on Measure B.
When LVFPD cuts some personnel costs, and budgets for equipment costs first, then they will be able to balance their budget without endangering the safety of their employees and the residents.
Tom Yant, South Lake Tahoe
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