Orland Fire Passes New $29 Million Budget While Contract Negotiations Continue
The Orland Fire Protection District board voted in favor of a budget with $29,035,294 in expenditures. How salaries for the district’s staff will affect the budget remain to be seen until contracts are in place.
The Orland Fire Protection District’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget that includes $29,035,294 in projected expenditures and $29,931,000 in expected revenue, at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The 2013 budget is about $300,000 less in expenses than was planned for in 2012.
District administrators attributed the reduction to cutting $4.8 million from department head requests submitted in mid-October, a lower benefit obligation through making an additional payment to the district’s retiree health care trust fund and prioritizing costs that are specific to emergency response.
“Things that have a more direct impact on our ability to respond to an emergency in a timely fashion get a higher priority,” Orland Fire Chief Ken Brucki said. “Those that have less of an impact we partially fund or don’t fund at all.”
The 2013 tax levy is expected to remain similar to 2012, though the levy will not be known until later in December. Orland Fire Finance Director Kerry Sullivan said the levy is expected to be between $26 million and $27 million. Trustees will be voting on the tax levy at the December meeting.
Orland Professional Firefighters Local 2754 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 are still in contract negotiations with the district administration.
Local 2754 will be heading into mediation with the district to resolve contract disputes. Local 2754 President Wally Rafacz said after Tuesday’s meeting that many contract issues need to still be discussed, and talk about wages hasn’t begun.
Brucki and Sullivan said the 2013 budget has assumptions built in for the potential contracts, based on the district’s initial proposal with increases. Brucki said the district and Local 134 are close to agreeing on a contract, but he also echoed Rafacz’s statement that a resolution with 2754 will require more negotiation.
“If the labor agreement ends up being higher than estimated we’d potentially have to amend the budget and take money from other accounts,” Sullivan said.
District administrators declined to comment about what has been set aside in the written budget for contracts, citing restrictions on divulging the contents of negotiations. Rafacz also declined to comment further on the talks.
According to a Chicago Tribune report by Ashley Rueff, $700,000 more has been placed in the 2013 budget than in 2012 for wages, though the final number will ultimately depend on the negotiations’ outcomes.
Spending on benefits is expected to go down from $5.3 million in 2012 to $4.5 million in 2013, due to paying additionally into the retiree health care trust fund this year, according to Sullivan.
The board also unanimously voted on a general obligation limited tax debt certificate issuance of no more than $25 million to set the district’s pension funding at a lower interest rate. The sale is expected to lower the current 7 percent rate to around 4 percent, to take advantage of what Sullivan described as “historic lows” in the market.
The exact rate will be established when the debt is sold later in December. The fire district’s last Moody’s rating was Aa1, and will be rated again when the bonds are sold.
Board president James Hickey said one of the reasons the fire district can make such a sale happen is because the district’s pensions are around 75 percent funded.
The fire board also approved Tuesday night contracting emergency dispatch services to Oak Forest.
The Orland Fire Protection District Board of Trustees will meet next on Dec. 18.
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