Sun City Fire and medical Department
Fire Administration • 18602 N. 99th Ave Sun City, AZ 85373 • 623‐974‐2321
To Professionally Protect, Prevent, and Educate
Michael Thompson, Fire Chief
Budget constraints impact service delivery in the Sun City Fire District.
The Sun City Fire & Medical Department provides 24/7 fire and emergency medical response as well as public education and fire prevention services to the communities of Sun City, Youngtown and Citrus Point. Incorporated in 1966, the fire department responds to an average of twelve thousand calls (dispatches) for help each year. The department has 66 full time employees and a roster of 15 volunteers. Four emergency fire and paramedic crews run out of the district’s three fire stations. All crews are staffed by a minimum of four crew members including two advanced life support paramedics.
Several economic variables had forced drastic changes upon the Sun City Fire District in the last several years. Through the development and maintenance of financial forecasting models the fire district recognized in 2008 that tough times were ahead and began preparing for the worse. The fire district Board of Directors, along with senior management and the firefighter labor union began making proactive changes to lessen the impact on the employees and the communities. The department had been restructured and positions in the firefighter/ paramedic ranks had been eliminated. Through mid 2015, all told, the workforce had been reduced by twelve full‐time employees.
But with the awarding of a FEMA federal S.A.F.E.R. grant in September 2015, the department has been able to reinstate the twelve furloughed positions, but the grant is effective for only two years.
Despite these changes the Fire & Medical Department has been able to maintain its mission in the community and has not effectively reduced service delivery levels.
Fire districts are funded primarily through an Ad‐Valorem property tax assessed against secondary property values in the district. Important secondary revenue sources include the statewide fire district assistance tax (FDAT), paramedic service agreements and building plan review, permit and inspection fees.
The Fire District has experienced a 48% reduction in district wide property valuations since 2008. This reduction in property value has forced the fire district to raise the tax rate some 60% from $2.17 per hundred rate in 2008 to $3.25 per hundred in 2015. Important to note is the fact that the actual tax levy, or the actual dollars paid by taxpayers in the community, has been decreased by approximately 14% in that same time frame ($11,011,086 in 2008 Vs. $9,450,880 in 2013). Likewise the fire department’s budget has been reduced by approximately 14% ($1,719,329) since 2008. Another $500,000 reduction in levy capacity is anticipated next year.
While the Sun City Fire & Medical Department had greatly reduced spending by eliminating positions in the organization, and retooling programs such as training and maintenance, it was not enough. The department also realized annual increases in utility costs, fuel costs, dispatch and service fees, workers' compensation and health insurance premiums. These fees are largely out of the fire district’s control and yet essential to being able to deliver service to the community.
How We Have Helped Ourselves
The Fire District believes it has done all it can do to reasonably control costs and reduce staffing levels while maintaining safe emergency response in the community. As such the department implemented several changes to continue to operate within budgetary constraints. The department eliminated one fire engine/paramedic crew from fire station 131 at 99th Avenue and Bell Road. Engine and Ladder 131, formerly staffed by two separate crews, were “co‐manned” by one crew, responding in the most appropriate type of apparatus given the nature of the emergency. Twelve of the crew members not being utilized in the new co‐manned company had to be furloughed, and the rest had been reassigned to rover or relief positions to provide staffing coverage for members who are on leave (sick, vacation, etc.). The rover firefighters help the department greatly reduce overtime associated with staffing fire apparatus 24/7.
These changes had a negative impact on emergency response due to the loss of the fourth crew, often resulting in longer response times. But with the awarding of a FEMA federal S.A.F.E.R. grant in 2015, the department has reinstated the twelve furloughed positions and fourth company for two years.
Cost of living pay increases have been frozen for the last five years, and at the same time health insurance benefits have been greatly reduced in an effort to control personnel costs.
How the Community can Help Us
The purpose of the Sun City Fire District Auxiliary is to support the Sun City Fire & Medical Department’s mission in the community by directly supporting the fire department financially and helping to provide equipment and program support. The Sun City Fire District Auxiliary, comprised of Sun City residents, is incorporated as a non-profit organization with the State of Arizona as a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization.
Donations to the Sun City Fire District Auxiliary are tax deductible. Donations are being accepted at fire department headquarters located at 18602 N. 99th Avenue, Sun City, AZ 85373 and online at www.scfdaux.org.