This week, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors considered tough cost cutting ideas aimed at closing a projected $11.9 million shortfall in the Fire Department’s budget for the coming fiscal year.
At Tuesday board meeting, the supervisors considered cost-cutting options as recommended by fellow supervisors Kevin Jeffries and John Tavaglione.
Riverside County has contracted with Cal Fire for fire protection services since 1921; however, this year, a tentative deal between Cal Fire and the union that represents the firefighters, is projected to blow a hole through the department’s budget. The agreement, proposed salary increases that total nearly $12 million. Those dollars must be included in the county’s labor costs for the coming fiscal year.
An ad-hoc fire service committee, of which Jeffries and Tavaglione are a part, suggested possible options designed to close the budget gap. Key among the recommendations is the proposed elimination of 11 administrative positions coupled with the suggestion that Cal Fire cover the jobs through the administration fee paid to the agency by the county each year. The annual administrative fee has exploded from $14.8 million paid by the county in 2012 to nearly $21 million for the coming fiscal year.
Additional cost cutting measures noted by the ad-hoc committee included the possible replacement of captains and engineers on fire engines with more firefighters; the elimination of one of the county’s hazardous materials teams; closing a fire station in Blythe (it has its own fire department); cutting a medic squad in Mecca; and adding a medic squad to a station in Ripley, among other cost saving recommendations.
All of the proposals were presented to the Board on Tuesday and most were approved.