Bay board backs NSFD funding formula

Published on: 11/5/2013

Whitefish Bay — Village President Julie Siegel will have the weight of the Village Board behind her when she votes in favor of a proposed funding formula at a North Shore Fire Department Board meeting later this month.

The board voted unanimously Monday to approve the new formula, which the NSFD board will potentially vote on at its upcoming Nov. 19 meeting. If approved there, the formula will then need to be ratified by each of NSFD's seven member communities.

The proposed formula, which determines the share of the total NSFD budget each community pays, would take effect in 2016 and replace a three-year formula set by the NSFD board in 2012. With the help of third-party mediator Rob Henken of nonpartisan think-tank Public Policy Forum, officials and administrators from the member communities arrived at the new formula after 10 months of consideration.

And though Henken has said the resulting formula proposal gained consensus among city and village administrators, the same cannot be said of elected officials. In mid-October River Hills Village President Bob Brunner called the proposal a "bailout" for Glendale and threatened to veto the new formula if a vote is called at the coming meeting. In response, Glendale Mayor Jerome Tepper said he would advise Glendale to separate from NSFD in 2016 if the proposed formula is defeated.

Siegel said the support of the Whitefish Bay Village Board will be "key" when she attends the NSFD board meeting later this month and potentially votes on the matter.

"It was important to me in particular that we had this board's complete understanding of what's going on, its support and backing for the new funding formula," Siegel said.

Added Village Manager Patrick DeGrave: "I think you need to be able to carry the message from the board to the fire board."

Should negotiations fail and the NSFD board fail to determine a new formula by 2016, the funding model would revert to its original form when the department was created in 1995. The village could handle the change in NSFD cost resulting from the proposed or original formula, in DeGrave's estimation.

"I don't think either of those would be fatal for Whitefish Bay," DeGrave said.

So far, Siegel has been the lone NSFD board member to call a formula vote at home, with the intent of bringing the result to the Nov. 19 meeting. Brunner will discuss the proposed formula at a special meeting of the River Hills Village Board on Nov. 15 and may call a similar vote.