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Fire district looks to close budget gap

May 28, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City Fire Chief Patrick Moore is working to reduce a gap of about $291,000 as he prepares to bring a budget Tuesday to the fire district’s governing board.

At a budget workshop last week, board Chairman David Cummings said the panel didn’t wish to raise the property tax rate.

Moore said that to stay at the current rate of $3.15 per $100 of assessed valuation, the BCFD may cut programs, and plans to eliminate through attrition at least one position.

An employee pay raise is unlikely, the chief said.

“If you’re not willing to raise the rate, I don’t know how I can build a raise or a step in the budget,” Moore said.

Cummings noted that the fire district has been making major purchases from a bond issue approved by fire district voters in 2017, and said that taxpayers might be annoyed by a rate increase so soon afterward.

Capt. Tom Queen, president of Local 3647, the Bullhead City Professional Fire Fighters Association, said the union supported the bond.

“But you also have to look at our call volume,” Queen told board members. “It’s increasing every year, and we’re doing it with less employees.”

Moore said money for raises could be found if he is able to reduce other line items.

“If you can find the money ... more power to you,” Cummings said. “I don’t think this board is going to stop you.”

At today’s meeting, the board is expected to post a maximum budget number. The fire district may spend less than the posted amount, but not more.

A final budget will be approved in June.

If the tax rate is unchanged, it will be at $3.15 for at least the third consecutive year. Moore will present several budget options at the meeting.

Moore said that long-term budget issues will remain, in part due to an increase in employee pension fund contributions from 7% a decade ago to the current 51%.

“(With) the model we’re using, we may tread water for a while,” Moore said. “But I don’t know that we’re going to continue to be able to tread water.”

He said that the BCFD is looking at cost-sharing options in some areas, but there is “no legislative relief coming” from state lawmakers in Phoenix.

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