The San Miguel Fire Protection District made the following announcement on Tuesday, Sept. 25:
The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors voted Tuesday night to approve a Cooperative Service Agreement with CAL FIRE. The Board voted unanimously to approve the 5 1/2-year agreement.
“This Cooperative Agreement allows the District to proceed with a balanced budget, maintain the current level of service for our residents and provide for the long-term viability of the District," Board president Chris Winter said. “It is important for residents to know the transition of firefighters from San Miguel to CAL FIRE will be as seamless as possible. As the agreement gets underway the District will continue to provide the same high level of service to the community.”
Both affected labor groups approved of the transition through the cooperative agreement.
“The Board of Directors and our firefighters have put public safety first in this historic decision," said San Miguel Fire Chief Gary Croucher. "The majority of our annual savings will come from the firefighters working longer shifts and the reduction of overtime.”
The transition of District firefighters will occur on December 31, 2012.
The San Miguel Fire District and its Board of Directors will remain intact, and the District will continue to own all of its assets. While the District’s suppression personnel will transfer to State employment, several District employees will remain. These positions would include a Fire Marshal, two Fire Inspectors, a Business Services Manager, a Secretary, a Fleet Maintenance Supervisor, a Fire Apparatus Mechanic and a Public Information Officer.
The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District is experiencing its fourth year of declining revenue vs. expenditures. The District has lost roughly 20 percent (about $2.5 million) of its property tax revenue since 2009.
Ninety-seven percent of the District’s revenue comes from property taxes. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, the District was facing a budget shortfall of approximately $1.6 million. Since the current economic crisis began the District has reduced expenses by millions of dollars. Reductions included:
– Permanent closure of Engine 15.
– Station 23 shifted temporarily to a two-person medic squad from a three-person engine.
– Significant employee givebacks, which included increasing the amount employees contribute to pensions, as well as paying a greater share of their medical benefits. Other concessions included the elimination of holiday pay for rank and file employees, decreased leave earn rates, the reduction of overtime and implementation of furlough days.
– Reductions in personnel.
– Significant reductions in overall expenditures.
In an attempt to eliminate the structural budget deficit and maintain the existing level of direct emergency services, the Board of Directors authorized a Request for Proposal be issued to surrounding fire agencies.
This in turn led to the CAL FIRE proposal, the only proposal that was received.
The primary objective of the Board and the Fire Chief is to ensure that the citizens and businesses of the San Miguel Fire District receive the best level of service possible within the resources available. During the course of the contract, the San Miguel Board of Directors will monitor all aspects of CAL FIRE’s performance to help ensure service levels for residents remain at the high quality expected.
The San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District is the largest fire district in San Diego County. The District was formed on July 1, 1988 through a merger of the Spring Valley and the Grossmont/Mt. Helix Fire Protection Districts, and again on July 3, 2008 with the East County Fire Protection District. The District has grown over the past 20 years in commercial businesses, housing density and population.
The District provides suppression, prevention and emergency medical services to approximately 134,000 residents. Its suppression force responds to approximately 9,000 fire and medical-related emergencies annually, serving the Communities of Bostonia, Casa de Oro, Crest, Grossmont/Mt. Helix, La Presa, Rancho San Diego, Spring Valley, and unincorporated areas of El Cajon and La Mesa.