North Shore Fire Department board agrees to revise funding formula

Third party to help with negotiations, compromise

Dec. 12, 2012

Representatives from the member communities of the North Shore Fire Department are looking to work out a new funding formula by the end of 2013.

The NSFD board of directors on Tuesday hashed out a tentative plan for a formula update, which will likely take place before a committee of the whole or some other all-inclusive body, and include a facilitator meant to guide negotiations.

"We have struggled over the years with working with one another without the advantage of an impartial third party," Glendale Mayor Jerome Tepper said. "One way or another we want to be done before the end of the next calendar year."

The updated funding formula would take effect in the 2016 budget year, replacing the three-year formula approved by each of the member communities and the NSFD board earlier this year.

"Even though it seems like we're a long way off, we need to do something," Bayside Village President Samuel Dickman said.

NSDF Chief Robert Whitaker later pointed out that, by creating a new formula well in advance of its effective date, the municipalities would be able to see potentially budget-affecting changes coming.

"It's good to have it done early," Whitaker said. "Any time you make a change in the formula, it changes things for everybody."

Whitaker said that a facilitator should lend "unedited, truthful comments" while helping to produce compromise between the member communities.

"The person doesn't really have to be skilled at putting together fire formulas," added Fox Point Village President Michael West. "They have to be good at mediation and holding our feet to the fire."

West said the committee needs to pay extra attention to the multipliers which affect communities' cost for NSFD services based on land usage, the rationale behind the multipliers being that commercial and industrial properties necessitate more service and equipment.

"There was sort of anecdotal information on some major fires that occurred before the foundation of the department … and inferentially led to the multipliers," West said. "The question is whether the numbers tells us we need multipliers again, and the only way to do that is to dig down into the data and talk to the chief. We need to take his analysis to the next step and see it on paper."

Risk analysis could be used

Whitaker said after the meeting that the department may need to re-evaluate the multipliers, and land usage type may not be the best indicator of how much service or equipment would be necessary to fight a fire at any given property.

"You almost have to look at it from a risk analysis standpoint instead of a property type," he said, adding that the department may not be able to get personnel out to evaluate properties throughout the North Shore by the end of next year.

The board of directors will look to hire a facilitator and begin discussing the new formula in the coming months.

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