A New Perspective – 10-06-2004: Fire Budgets

October 6, 2004

Golden Gate Gazette

I read somewhere this week that one of the steps toppling a democratic nation is when the country goes from complacency to apathy.
I’ve been writing about how the Golden Gate Fires and Rescue district has been throwing your hard earned money out the window, and are fixing to spend a bunch more the next two years because of the over zealous spending of the past few years. 65% of our Citizen readers are in the Golden Gate district which runs all of the way down to Rattlesnake Hammock Road. East Naples district appears to be much more reasonable in their “bonanza of tax revenue” coming in the door the past few years.
Last weeks budget bonanza, Golden Gate’s assistant fire chief said “it’s like winning the lottery,” didn’t get a rise out of anyone. They spent $1 million more than they should have for the upcoming tax year and everyone seems alright with it.
The lottery money is all spent and there will be shortages again next year and they will complain about the need to raise the millage rate again.
I’m going to try to spell it out one more time. If people don’t seem to care, I’m done writing about the horrendous waste going on and become apathetic with the rest of the world and watch our democracy fall.
This year ad valorem taxes (the ones you pay for your house) were used to buy a $728,000 truck that would have been received for free if they would have shared the prematurely built fire house with North Naples. Impact fees are suppose to pay for growth related costs of new fire trucks, but we’d already spent all of our and took out loans that cost us an additional $300,000 in expenses.
All administrators were given a $5,000 bonus whether they deserved it or not. The department was feeling so rich, that they opened a Union Contract up to give them more money than they had requested.
This would have been the final year of a budget where 8% and 5% and 5% would have been given for raises on top of increases for years of service and increased retirement benefits and more time off from work while making the same money.
It is a rare occasion to ever open a contract with a union. Our generous department opened up the contract and gave everyone more money than had been requested with $5,000 pay raises for everyone.
The excitement must have been fantastic as the money came blowing all over the room and people grabbing at it desperately before it was all gone. That raise will cost the district over $300,000 next year. Those two items alone cost you and one a million bucks. That doesn’t include the automatic 25% that has to be added to retirement and the other spending done with a fat budget.
I can only shake my head in disgust and see why nobody trusts government with tax money. The worst part is, nobody seems to care. They’ll just continue to do it.
I recently told my son who is a sophomore at UCF that he ought to get that 4 year degree and get a job as a fire fighter because there isn’t a better career out there with the beginning pay salaries, lucrative annual increases, the awesome paid time off, and incredible retirement benefits.
He agreed and is going to do it.  Starting salary for a beginning fire fighter is now $39,900 plus all of the benefits. Awesome dude!