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Fire District 3 avoids $100K budget shortfall

Facing a budget deficit of more than $100,000, commissioners from Island County Fire District 3 approved the reallocation of revenues into the operations budget this week.

Commissioners met with Fire Chief Rusty Palmer to discuss the $104,512 budget shortfall for 2012. The quick fix for the fire district was to re-appropriate 5 percent from its capital expenditure fund to operations.

“That extra 5 percent will cover that shortfall,” Palmer said.

The special meeting Wednesday addressed the money concerns. commissioners and the chief have worked on the 2012 budget for the past two months.

“We’ve been working on the budget for about two and a half months,” Palmer said. “Through that process we’ve been looking at all possible cuts to avoid service delivery problems.”

As a district policy, 25 percent of its revenues from tax valuations are invested in its capital expenditure fund.

The conservative saving was designed to allow the district to purchase new fire engines and equipment at the best time for the district, rather than at times of desperation.

New expenses will be delayed as well. The district had budgeted to purchase a new aerial apparatus or fire ladder. Instead, the district reached agreements with the Oak Harbor Fire Department and a fire ladder that is stationed in south Snohomish County.

"They're just going to be a delayed response," Palmer said. "How that affects the citizens, I don't know yet."

In the past 12 months, the fire ladder truck was not used to respond to any emergencies. Fire District 3's current fire ladder will be put up for surplus this month.

At 32 years old, it's likely to be scrapped, Palmer said.

"We've put too much money into it in the last couple of years. It failed its pump test and it's flat not worth fixing anymore."

Palmer met with Liz Loomis Public Affairs to request a contract to propose to the commissioners. It's another step for the district to investigate putting a levy lid lift to a vote.

Fire commissioners for Fire District 3 will meet to vote on the budget at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Freeland station 5535 Cameron Road.

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