May 10, 1997 in Washington Voices

Commissioners Cut Valley Fire Budget By Half A Million New Vehicles, Public Education Position Trimmed

By The Spokesman-Review

Valley Fire District commissioners on Wednesday approved nearly $500,000 in budget cuts they hope will prevent a repeat of the cash flow problem that forced the district to seek a 14-month loan last month.

Among the 22 items cut from the 1997 budget were purchase of a new ladder truck chassis and medic truck, and creating a new public education officer position.

Valley Fire Chief Pat Humphries projects the cuts will allow the district to finish the year with a $2.1 million surplus, and avoid a cash flow problem next year.

In a narrow vote last month, fire commissioners faced with a $1.25 million cash flow deficit approved a $1.75 million tax anticipation note and $200,000 in budget cuts. The board then ordered Humphries to trim an additional $300,000 from the budget.

The tax note, which will be paid off next June from money set aside from property tax collections, marked the first time the district has sought such relief.

At the April 16 meeting, fire commissioners, uncomfortable with the loan, pledged to increase the district’s year-end fund balance. Valley Fire officials project this year’s cuts and a shuffle of future asset purchases could bump the district’s year-end fund balance to $4.2 million by the year 2000.

Humphries hopes to create a fund in which the district can set aside money each year to buy new fire trucks. The fund balance is projected to reach $776,000 by 2000 and should prevent the district from having to borrow more money, he said.

Wednesday’s budget reduction brought the year’s cuts to $485,476. Humphries said the cuts will force Valley Fire officials to shuffle the placement of some of vehicles, but should not have an impact on service.

Fire commissioners also considered selling a fire station at Appleway Avenue and Michigan Road left vacant when the new Liberty Lake station opened on Harvard Road earlier this year. However, the board voted 3-1 in favor of instead trying to lease the station for $15,800 annually.

Fire commissioners will reconsider selling the station if it has not been leased within four months.

Humphries recommended selling the station. Anticipated growth in the southern Valley will shift the population concentration, making a location west of the Appleway station a better choice if a new one is needed, Humphries said.

Additionally, the old station is too small to house the district’s mechanical ladder trucks. And, the property the station is built on is too small to adequately expand it, Assistant Chief Karl Bold added.

“The old Station 3 is not in the worst location, it’s just not the best location,” Humphries said.

A floral shop, car detailing business and real estate speculators have expressed interest in buying the station, Humphries said.

Commissioner Harry Larned argued that the estimated $200,000 profit from selling the station is not enough to justify selling it. Central Valley School District’s plans to eventually build a new high school near Henry Road and 16th Avenue and anticipated residential growth around it are strong reasons to keep the station, Larned said.

“The valuation is going to go nothing but up,” Larned said. “To replace it you’re going to pay a lot more than $200,000.”

, DataTimes

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email