ESD set to tackle growing budget

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Emergency Services District 4 (ESD) Commissioners will get to chew on the new proposed budget for the first time Aug. 6 when Chief Anthony Lincoln presents the new plan.

The current budget is just over $3 million, and Lincoln said the new version will be much larger with the debt on the new station and increased personnel expenses.

“We’ve added over a half million dollars worth of salaries into this new budget, so it’s going to be a little different,” he said. “We’ve been projecting ahead so we knew what it was going to be. We’ve been preparing this for two years.”

The new personnel and new station debt alone will add nearly $900,000 to next year’s budget, but tax revenues have remained strong.

With property values increasing and sales tax revenues going up each month, Lincoln is confident that increases will be manageable.

“(Sales tax revenues are) above what we started off the year budgeting,” he said. “It has continued to go up for the past two years from what we’ve budgeted. Monthly, we’re probably averaging at least $10,000 per month over the projection.”

To date, with three months remaining in the fiscal year, the ESD has reached 111 percent of property taxes collected against its budgeted number at $2.6 million. On the sales tax side, revenues continue to be strong, hitting 101 percent of budgeted total for the year already at $424,000.

After the Aug. 6 budget meeting, hearings will be scheduled for Aug. 20 and Aug. 27 for public input, before commissioners adopt the budget Sept. 10.

“The board didn’t have anything specific,” Lincoln said previously regarding particulars for the new budget. “But I already knew we’d have to be planning for all the impacts starting to catch up to us for next year with the opening of the new station.”

The current property tax rate is $0.098 cents for $100 property valuation, with a maximum rate dictated by the state of $0.10.

Fire marshal
Keeling Neves started work this week, giving ESD No. 4 its first full-time fire marshal. He was hired at a salary of $80,000.

“Having him as a point of contact is going to make a huge difference,” Lincoln said. “It will help a lot for people to get information much faster and always know who they will be dealing with.”

There were 19 applicants and five were interviewed, with Neves emerging as the top candidate.

Neves comes from Georgetown, where he worked in the fire department for 17 years and the last four as the city’s fire marshal. That experience made him the right choice, according to Lincoln.

“He helped put their whole program together in Georgetown,” he said. “His experience, and bringing that four years as a fire marshal to us is a big benefit.”

Construction progress
The foundation is expected to be poured for Fire Station 2 in early August, and utilities could be in place by September.

“They’re going good on the timeline, things are going well,” Lincoln said of the progress. “Weather is not going to be an issue for a while.”

Future stations
The donation of land from Santa Rita developers for Fire Station 2 was a financial savings for the ESD, but it also came with some added restrictions and requirements that commissioners know they may not want to deal with in the development of subsequent stations.

“We appreciate what Santa Rita did for us, but I think it would be in our best interest to go ahead and start looking for future stations now,” said ESD President Dan Clark. “Land’s not going to get any cheaper than it is now. What I’d propose that we start looking for locations in areas we need.”

The likely location for Station 3 will be somewhere north on County Road 200, but Lincoln said Station 4 will depend on how growth occurs. The next station is anticipated to be planned for a three to five year window, according to Lincoln.

“It’s going to come down to when can we afford to do it, more than anything,” he said. “The need is already coming pretty quick, but it’s going to boil down to what our tax base and collections allow us to do.”

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