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The Lehigh Fire Dept. and numbers

August 10, 2011
Lehigh Acres Citizen

To The Editor:

State Statue 191.009 says that 3.75 mills max levy, the level of 3.0 mills now charges can only be raised another .75 mills and as a total additional raise of 3.0 mills to break even is not a solution. A local bill must be passed on an approval referendum which polls show will not pass.

State Statute 197.363 and 191.011 says that the people will have to give up its right of an approval referendum if the tax assessment system is used (like the ECWCD) And given the history of extremely bad management of the LAFD finances which lead them into the financial mess they are in today, plus the statement by elected officials that they will not introduce a " local bill" to even ask for a referendum to raise taxes.

Chief Adams reported by graph that income will have to be doubled in order to break even and responded to Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) member Kloppert's question said that less than 54 firefighters would have to be let go, I concluded that means 53 layoffs.

Volunteers' recruitment is frowned upon by the LAFD union, and a compromise might be to see if it is legal for the general fund to pay the dues of volunteers to the union since it's been concluded that is the main reason that the union objects to volunteers even though 70 percent of the country has them. The technological problems on how to best use them is the chief and his advisers' job.

The senior firefighters object to huge cuts in pay because they will get less of a pension when they retire. Attorneys should get to work and see if there is a way to change this problem.

So far a proposal that large landowners and large building and business owners should be charged more of the total costs of running the department. (Kluase)

It also has been proposed that the taxed amount should be charged according building square footage and or property size starting from 1/4, 1/2 , 1 acre, etc., (Anderson) However no income revenues totals have been submitted by these proposals and these suggestions would need a local bill to be filed and a voter approval, and if these bills have no chance of passing if it raises taxes. The demand of extra coverage by large amount taxpayers would have to be addressed probably in court.

The "Safer Grant" system provides pay and benefits for 24 months to keep approximately 30 firefighters employed, however, on the down side it does not allow layoffs or job rotating with less than full employment and will result in the financial demise of the department by August 2012. If a new grant is applied for and a no-layoff and pay reduction contract is approved then the department is wide open to a state takeover by an appointed supervisor and all contracts etc., are null and void and local control is ended .

A FAC five to two opinion against raising taxes puts the ball back into their court and due to the fact that the board over the past years is responsible for this mess, it's the chief's problem to use the information provided to assist in solving it.

Frank Lohlein

Member LAFD-Financial Advisory Committee

Lehigh Acres



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