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The Sedona Fire District's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007-08 increased to $14,250,384, up from $11,711,356 in FY 2006-07.
fBy Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

The Sedona Fire District's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007-08 increased to $14,250,384, up from $11,711,356 in FY 2006-07.

Property tax increases in both Coconino and Yavapai counties made more money available to the district.

SFD Fire Chief Matt Shobert said he decided against lowering the mill levy — the lowest in the state at 1.75 — and will bank the extra money for future capital projects.

That means Coconino and Yavapai counties will continue to collect $1,750 of real property tax per $100,000 in valuation for SFD in FY 2007-08.

Last year, SFD collected $2.4 million from Coconino County and $7.1 million from Yavapai County.

This year, SFD will collect $3.1 million from Coconino County and $8.8 million from Yavapai County.

Current levels of service won?t change, Shobert said, because extra money collected by the mill levy will be placed into capital reserves.

"Our dilemma is knowing we have these expensive capital improvements looming on the horizon," Shobert said.

SFD closed escrow on 1.52 acres of

property in the Chapel area on Monday, April 30. SFD paid $631,000 for the property out of its capital reserves, decreasing the account balance to under $135,000.

Next year, SFD hopes to boost the capital reserves fund back up to about $1.1 million.

Shobert said capital projects for FY 2007-08 include down payment on a 100-foot ladder truck, design of a Chapel area station and a new regional communications center in Uptown.

SFD plans to use the "pay-as-you-go" method to fund and "build-as-you-go" to complete these projects, Shobert said.

According to Shobert, SFD hasn't completely ruled out bonding, but it is unlikely. SFD is looking at all funding options.

With the Sedona-Oak Creek School District and possibly the city of Sedona considering a bond issue, Shobert said SFD is backing off.

"I do not want to compete with the school [district]," Shobert said.

Other capital projects will either have to wait or SFD will look for alternative funding sources, Shobert said.

SFD Regional Communications Center will also generate additional revenue in FY 2007-08. SFD will earn $320,408, up $71,689, by dispatching for other agencies in Yavapai County.

Total expenditures budgeted for FY 2007-08 are $9,166,843, up from $8,118,033 last year.

A health insurance hike of $266,525 accounts for some of the increase.

According to Shobert, SFD switched insurance carriers last year. During the transition, the new carrier had to pay bills from several months back — up to a year in some cases — that the previous carrier hadn't taken care of.

"We're projecting it's just a one-year peak," Shobert said.

Wage increases — approximately $600,000 — are caused by the incremental 3.2 percent cost of living increase, restructuring SFD hierarchy and adding a new position.

After Assistant Fire Chief Jim Elmer and Administration Manager Karen Hatler retired this year, Shobert decided to rearrange things.

SFD eliminated the administration manager position and split the assistant fire chief post in two. Shobert said two chiefs reduce the number of people directly reporting to him.

An additional fire inspector will be added, according to Shobert. Current fire inspectors specialize in public information and public education. The new fire inspector will focus on wildland fire.

Reserve wages were cut in half from $200,000 to $100,000.

Last January, SFD implemented an extra ambulance to run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., during peak call volume.

On April 25, the SFD Governing Board approved publishing the proposed budget on Friday, May 18. After the budget is published, it cannot increase.

The board scheduled final approval of the budget for its regular board meeting Wednesday, June 27.

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