North Kitsap, Poulsbo fire commissioners get first look at efficiency study Monday

POULSBO — North Kitsap and Poulsbo fire commissioners will get their first look at a long-awaited efficiency study Monday, 7 p.m., during a joint meeting in North Kitsap’s fire station at 26642 Miller Bay Road NE, Kingston.

The meeting is open to the public. No decision is expected to be made, North Kitsap administrative assistant Cindy Moran said.

Both departments are looking for ways to maintain service levels and reduce expenses as the economy drives assessed property valuations, and property tax revenues, down.

Officials hope to identify more ways they can operate more efficiently and avoid duplication of service. North Kitsap, Poulsbo and Bainbridge share a facilities maintenance employee, at a cost of $25,000 each. The departments also train together.

“Good government doesn’t duplicate (work),” Poulsbo Fire Chief Dan Olson said.

Moran said the consultants’ report contains about 44 long- and short-term strategies, with recommendations to come Monday.

The recession and slow recovery have wreaked havoc on property values, tax revenues that fund public services, and investment income of public agencies.

Moran said North Kitsap Fire and Rescue expects to receive $250,000 less in property tax revenue in 2012. Poulsbo Fire Chief Dan Olson said his department expects a $330,000 decrease in property tax revenue.

Declining revenues are further complicated by increases in costs of benefits. At Poulsbo Fire, the cost of health insurance has increased 12-14 percent, Olson said.

To maintain service levels and reduce expenses, Poulsbo Fire eliminated two deputy chief positions, one fire marshal position, one mechanic position, and cut overtime, Olson said. Station 72 on Falkner Road is now flex-staffed and open 40 percent of the time.

Poulsbo Fire’s 2011 budget is $7 million in expenses  — down from $7.8 million in 2008 — and $7.4 million in revenue, Olson said. Some $750,000 of its revenue will come from insurance and patient reimbursements for ambulance transport; $25,000 will come from investment income, down from $100,000 in 2007 or 2008.

According to its website, Poulsbo Fire responds to more than 3,000 calls a year; 80 percent of those calls are related to EMS, or emergency medical services, Olson said.

Poulsbo Fire covers 55 square miles, from Port Gamble south to Keyport. It has four fire stations, 36 uniformed personnel, five non-uniformed personnel, two administrative employees, and 25 volunteers, Olson said.

North Kitsap’s 2011 budget is $5.8 million, down from $6.04 million in 2009. According to its website, the department responded to 2,480 calls in 2010, with about 64 percent of all calls dispatched for emergency medical services. The department has 37 paid personnel, eight volunteer-interns and six volunteers who respond from home.

North Kitsap covers about 47 square miles, including Hansville, Indianola, Kingston, Miller Bay and Suquamish — a population of about 22,000. The department has five stations, four of which are fully staffed.

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