A New Perspective 9-30-04: Fire Budgets

Golden Gate Gazette

September 30, 2004

I just about fell off my chair this morning when I heard the Golden Gate Fire Commissioners let Chief Peterson talk them into trying to raise the millage rate to get more money to hire more people, buy new trucks and more stuff.
Last week, I wrote about how the fire department budgeted more than $400,000 additional money just to pay for regular salaries. That is an increase from the $2 million budgeted last year (nearly 20 percent hike) and they only plan to hire one more person on that increase.
In 2002, the administrative positions were budgeted for a big increase in pay, too. This year’s total wages budget equals a 17 percent increase.
Since that was such a high number, you could figure there would be a number of new hires available in that increase.
The District’s ad valorum tax revenue base (the amount of property tax you pay for owning property in Collier County) went up $800,000 to $4.6 million. That’s a lot of money and a big increase. Can you imagine running a business with annual growth rates of 17 percent a year?
Our District continues to recieve $6-$7 million a year in impact fees. That revenue is currently paying off all of the new buildings. Pretty soon, it will buy a bunch of trucks and equipment.
It’s hard to validate the panic of striving to raise our taxes.
Salaries of the local fire fighters weren’t competitive in years gone by; but during the last round of negotiations, the pay schedule was right in there with East Naples and North Naples.
We are just coming off a three-year contract that paid everyone an annual 3.4 percent cost of living raise and an additional annual 3 percent longevity raise for an increase of over six percent a year.
In addition to that, administrative positions increased between 8 and 15 percent in 2002.
Fire Commissioners got a well-deserved pay increase from $75 to $500 per month, to make the position a little more appealing. They also received free health insurance.
Now we’re going to get a plea of “poor us, we need more money.” It’s pretty unbelievable.
The Chief is a great guy, dedicated, likable and obviously a great salesman.
It’s good to be in a town that still has a local newspaper, which provides information on issues that you might not otherwise learn about.
I think of all of the good things that can become of this newspaper. All it lacks is more support from the business community. Look through the pages and thank the merchants that make this paper possible.
I recently read about a nationally syndicated columnist who moved to a new town. The local paper there had carried his column and decided to drop it after he moved there, to which he was thankful. His name is Baxter Black.
Here’s what he had to say about the small-town press, “I think of local papers as the last refuge of unfiltered America. A running of the warts and triumphs of real people unfettered by the spin, the bias and the opaque polish of today’s homogenized journalism. It’s the difference between homemade bread and Pop Tarts. It gives our little community a sense of place in the world. We are important to somebody. We make a difference. The paper recognizes that they are the glue, the mirror, the billboard, the flashlight, the semi fore, the boom box, and microphone of small towns. It is how we hold hands. They care. They show we care. They wear our hearts on their sleeve.”