NSFD considers options for capital
Member communities have to agree to exceed usual budget caps
The North Shore Fire Department board of directors next month will consider an amendment to its governing agreement as it attempts to find a way to fund capital purchases.
The department has an ongoing capital plan. First on its list of needs is the replacement of an engine and ambulance at an estimated total cost of $625,350.
The six village managers and city administrator of the seven-member communities and a special committee of the board separately have been working to address capital funding for the department.
The board on April 14 reviewed their proposals.
Fox Point Village President Mike West said the committee recommended a plan to fund three years of capital purchases, but it failed to gain the support of the six managers and administrator.
The managers and administrator support a proposal, presented by Whitefish Bay Village Manager Jim Grassman, that would have each community directly fund its share of capital purchases based on a one-year capital plan approved by the board of directors.
Grassman said the managers and administrator would plan for the ambulance and engine purchases, with a first payment in 2010 and the balance in 2011, in their municipal budgeting process.
Department Attorney William Dineen, in a letter to the board, said he believes an amendment to the governing agreement would be necessary to have each community fund its share of the capital costs outside of the budget caps of the agreement, which limits the percentage of increase of the operating and capital budgets.
Unable to keep pace
Capital funding in past years has been done either by use of reserve funds or through borrowing.
The department cannot borrow directly but a member community has done so, with the other communities agreeing to repay their shares.
The department budget, however, has not been able to keep pace with the operating and capital costs of the department in recent years. Last year, the department dipped into fund balance for operating costs. At year's end there was $704,000 in fund balance.
Grassman said the board should ask Dineen to draft an amendment, which would require the unanimous agreement of all seven communities, for the capital purchases outside of the budget, and draft a contract between the communities establishing their commitment to make the second-year payments on purchases.
The board plans to discuss the amendment and contract proposals at its May 12 meeting in Fox Point.
Mary Buckley can be reached at (262) 446-6615.
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