CRESTVIEW — While the Crestview City Council and department heads struggle with resolving a $533,167 deficit between proposed spending and forecast revenues, city firefighters are engaged in some budget brainstorming of their own.
From increasing fees for fire inspections to restructuring the department's leadership, the Crestview Professional Firefighters Association's proposal could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ideas presented by Capt. Jim Poirrier, the union's president, include charging for fire inspections, which currently are free.
An inspection fee schedule based on neighboring departments' fees could generate as much as $35,000 per year, Poirrier said during Monday’s city council meeting. By law, the department must inspect city businesses every other year.
Fees would also increase for generating fire reports, performing fire stand-bys and displays, and for responding to nuisance fire alarms activated by poorly calibrated or maintained systems.
The firefighters suggested creating each station's own coffee fund, eliminating $2,300 a year, and saving fuel by eliminating non-essential driving, such as runs to a store.
More fuel savings could be realized by simply opening the bay doors at Station 3 to monitor incoming air ambulances at North Okaloosa Medical Center rather than driving to the hospital.
Crestview's firefighters formalized their previous proposal to eliminate their annual uniform allowance budget item of $20,800 and eliminate incentive pay.
Poirrier also suggested the city implement an early retirement plan for senior firefighters with 20-plus years of service. He suggested the Fire and Police Retirement Board actuary conduct a study, which Poirrier's association believes could save the city up to $300,000 annually.
Coupling early retirements with restructuring top leadership, none of whom are union members, in the fire department could generate $441,645 savings the first year, Poirrier suggested.
Council President Robyn Helt praised the firefighters for proactively brainstorming ways to cut expenses and raise revenues.
"This is what I wanted to see: some solutions," Helt said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.