East Fork, association ink three-year deal | RecordCourier.com

East Fork, association ink three-year deal

Staff Reports

Fire District Board President Bernie Curtis, along the District Legal Counsel Mark Forsberg and Association President signing three year labor contracts.

After 11 months of negotiations, the East Fork Fire Protection District and the East Fork Professional Firefighters General Association have reached an agreement on a three-year labor contract.

The contract will run until June 30, 2020. The association is composed of two separate bargaining units, one representing firefighters, engineers, captains, inspectors, and mechanics, and the other representing the district's three battalion chiefs. The district settled a contract with the battalion chiefs in November, also with a three-year deal.

At the same meeting, the district board also held firm on the existing tax rate. Under its newly created board of directors, the district could have proposed a tax rate increase, but in a unanimous vote, opted to hold the line on tax rates and proposed its existing rate for the upcoming fiscal year. Board President Bernie Curtis said he felt the district should continue to work within its means and not propose an increase in taxes.

The new three-year labor contract will introduce a new five-step pay plan for job classifications, allow an annual step increase not to exceed 5.2 percent between steps, modifies the incentive pay for certain skills, increases sick leave payouts upon separation, and makes modifications in discipline, grievance, and drug and alcohol articles.

The association agreed to push back wage adjustments to January 2019 and 2020, as opposed to seeing increases in July of each year. The East Fork Battalion Chiefs agreed not to accept a cost-of-living increases for the entire term of their contract. All employees cover a part of increases in health insurance if the total increase exceeds a certain amount and share equally any increases in PERS contributions as provided by state law.

The total estimated fiscal impact for the contract is approximately $27.18 million. The total cost of salaries and benefits for employees covered by the proposed agreement is approximately $8.6 million in year one, including a net increase of $562,283.86 in salaries and benefits in 2017-18.

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The cost for year two is estimated at $9.06 million, including a net increase of $465,799.78.

The cost of year three is estimated at $9.5 million, including a net increase of $454,577.62 in FY 19-20.

Labor and benefit costs account for just over 73 percent of the district's budget. Both contracts support 61 represented positions.

The year one increases include adjustments based on regional market comparisons and the district's attempt to become more comparable with similar agencies. East Fork has for the past several years struggled with revenues due in part to the impacts with the Affordable Health Care, the economic downturn, annual losses of revenue to the North County Redevelopment Agency, a loss of tax rate to Douglas County in 2010, and a very slow economic recovery.

The cost of providing services has increased along with call volume at 4-5 percent per year. The district has also increased its appropriated reserve account to 12.2 percent.

"The district's revenue and expense status is still somewhat fragile and there are way too many variables which can impact revenue and expenses right now," said Carlini.

State law allows agencies to maintain a balance of up to 25 percent in their reserve account. Most agencies maintain 8.3 percent or one month's operating costs. The district has not been able to make any significant capital improvements with the exception of upgrading its ambulances. The district received a $350,000 federal grant to purchase a new wildland fire engine. It will be the first new Type III apparatus purchased since 2001.

The district's labor contracts are public record and are available on the district website.

Carlini made an official presentation of the fiscal impacts as required under NRS 288.153 at the Oct. 17 meeting for the battalion chiefs and at Tuesday's meeting for the general association contract.

Both presentations are available on the district's website at eastforkfire.org.