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Throughout the Nation Fire Fighters are being targeted as the reason for their city's budget problems - and in some cities it's true. But in Imperial Beach the City Officials are padding our Fire Department's budget by $1/2 million to hide other expenses.

Every department listed on the budget is broken into two sections: Employee Cost and Other Costs. Employee costs include wages along with all insurances and deductions including those paid out by the employee.

Other Costs are all products/services used by the department. This is broken down into 28 different accounts to track the actual costs of everything from electricity to pencils that is used by the fire department.

Budget forecasts are projected based on past usage of the products and services of the department. Page 52 of the Budget lists the Fire Dept. total Other Costs at $699,350, but according to the General Fund Check Report the total operational costs were $206,441.43 for year end 06/30/11 and $121,269.91 for the past fiscal year. The budget is projected at $1/2 million more than the fire department has spent in the last two years.

Part of the discrepancy can be traced to the 20-06 Professional Services Account and 21-04 Technical Services Account. The Budget lists Professional Services at $53,000, but the check register shows the fire department only spent $15,262.50 in 2011 and $20,844.95 in 2012. Technical Services is listed on the Budget at $92,000, but the fire department has only spent $20,814.40 in the last year. Together 21-04 and 20-06 codes account for about $100,000 of the difference.

But most of the money is hidden in four ABC Accounts: These are listed as 'Internal Service Charges'.
26-04 Administration Service Charge - $247,788
26-05 Technology Service Charge - $35,467
26-06 Risk Management - $72,080
26-07 FMP Equipment Charge - $68,812
The ABC Accounts alone total $424,147.

79% of the Other Costs on the Imperial Beach Fire Department Budget do not belong to the fire department. This $570,000 in added charges represents 25% of the fire department's total budget.

The basic function of the Accounting System is to tie all of the financial information together. When money is paid out the check is coded to the department that used the product/service. The accounting codes on the budget should match the accounting codes on the checks issued. The City of Imperial Beach Budget has almost $4 million in ABC accounts hidden within their 32 departments; yet there is NOT ONE '26-' coding in the General Ledger Check Reports in the last two years.

How long has the City been funneling expenses into the Fire and other Departments? I don't know, but it's been going on for a few years. The 2008 Budget Report states $352,321 in ABC accounts were attached to the fire department's budget in 2005-2006.

What about the wages?

The total wages for the Imperial Beach Fire Department have held steady at $1.2 million for the past two years. Our firefighters have very little overtime – they do not abuse the system.

What about the benefits?

On September 7, 2011 the Council adopted Resolution no. 2011-7074, a 'Memorandum of Understanding' with the Imperial Beach Fire Department. Effective 07/01/11 Firefighters began to pay the entire amount of their CalPERS and set a maximum of $825 per month in 2011 and $855 per month effective 07/01/12 as the City's health care contribution to our 12 firefighters.

How did I know the firefighters' budget would be corrupt?

Because in that same 'Memorandum of Understanding' that took away the firefighters' benefits also lists item 10)
“ Employees hired on or after July 1, 2011 must be non-smokers and remain non smokers and cannot use tobacco of any kind as a condition of continued employment. Effective January 1, 2012, employees are prohibited from smoking and using tobacco of any kind while on duty...”

and item 12)
“ A new article will be created related to personal appearance and visible tattoos, earrings, punches, and piercings ...”

If the reason behind reducing benefits for the firefighters was financial the City would not have included personal attacks.

The City Manager states the Fiscal Impact of the Memorandum of Understanding will save $52,200 over a 2 year period “...from a combination of increased employee retirement pickup, elimination of city contribution to CalPers, reduction of health insurance cash out, creation of lessor paying positions..”

The City cuts their responsibility to our firefighters to save $25,000/year while they pad the fire department's budget by $45,000 every month.

Where is the Union?

I don't know. Every month a check for $300 is issued to the IB Firefighters Association, but there doesn't seem to be anyone negotiating on the side of our firefighters.

Taxes are collected for the essential services of the community and the fire department is one of the most essential of services. Our firefighters deserve the community's respect and support. Firefighters are paid well because it's a dangerous job, they have to leave their families for days at a time, and their job requires the moral integrity not to abuse their position.

It's time to stop letting our elected and appointed officials point the blame at the line worker when it is their own poor choices that are causing our economic hardships.
 


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