UPDATE (December 18, 2017 7:05 a.m.): KCFD Fire Chief Brian Marshall is expected to hold a press conference on Monday Dec. 18th at 1 p.m. to address the 200 page report.
The press conference will be held at at the Kern County Fire Department headquarters located at 5642 Victor St, Bakersfield, CA 93308. ==========
On Friday a more than 200 page report came out discussing an analysis of the Kern County Fire Department, along with suggestions of how to cut costs based off details gathered over the multi-month review of the department.
The Center for Public Safety Management, or CPSM, was hired to analyze the department and find ways to save money. They made 62 recommendations ranging from operations, workload, staffing and deployment practices. The top ten suggestions with the biggest financial impact were highlighted. If all suggestions are implemented, that would total more than $13 million in savings. The suggestions are as follows:
TEN COST REDUCTIONS AND IMPROVED SOLVENCY MEASURES
Renegotiate a reduction or elimination of Educational Incentive Pay:
CPSM believes that there is limited benefit in terms of service delivery and employee performance that results from the distribution of these funds. The qualifications for eligibility have little if any impact on employee performance.
Estimated Savings: Up to $4.2 million annually.
Renegotiate a reduction or elimination of Fitness Incentive Pay:
CPSM believes that employees working in a public safety environment should be required to maintain a level of fitness that is tested annually as a condition of employment. An additional incentive for maintaining a minimum fitness level is unwarranted.
Estimated Savings: Up to $1.6 million annually
Renegotiate the time-worked provision in determining overtime eligibility:
Federal Department of Labor requirements (FLSA) do not require that lost time occurring in the regular payroll cycle (sick leave, vacation, holiday, disability, etc.) be counted as time worked for the purpose of calculating overtime. Kern County has included this allowance as part of the current collective bargaining MOU; CPSM believes that this provision should be renegotiated.
Estimated Savings: Up to $1.5 million annually
Eliminate the standard biweekly income averaging process and move to payment for actual hours worked:
The current process being utilized in averaging the hours worked during the biweekly payroll cycle adversely affects overtime payments. If employees are paid for the actual hours worked in each biweekly payroll cycle, there will be a substantial annual savings in the overtime paid. Estimated Savings: Up to $250,000 annually
Revise the pricing model for municipal service contracts:
The current methodology that uses a per-capita population ratio for establishing municipal service contract fees does not achieve 100 percent cost recovery. CPSM believes that the methodology used should be more reflective of the actual costs for providing these services. Estimated Savings: Up to $1.5 Million annually
Move to full cash payment for holiday time:
The current policy allows the option of providing holiday time as either a cash payment or as time off. CPSM recommends that the county move to solely a cash payment method and eliminate the time-off option. This will result in a reduction of annual overtime expenditures.
Estimated Savings: In excess of $200,000 annually
Move to a fee basis for ARFF Services at county airports:
KCFD currently does not charge any fees or receive reimbursement for ARFF services at Meadows Field and Kern County Airport. These specialized services are required under FAA regulations and typically are funded by airline service fees. CPSM believes that services contracts with the individual airports should be established to offset these costs. Estimated Savings: Up to $2 million annually
Revisit fire apparatus acquisition practices:
KCFD has maintained a practice of purchasing top-of-the-line, custom fire apparatus for both structural and wildland fire fighting. As the county moves towards replacing its fleet, CPSM recommends that KCFD consider the use of less expensive fire pumpers and Type-3 and Type-6 Wildland units.
Estimated Savings: From $15,000 to $30,000 per unit purchased
Reduce the number of field employees allowed off for vacation each shift:
Under KCFD’s current policy upwards of 23 employees are allowed off each day for vacation leave. CPSM believes that this number can be reduced significantly and still provide ample time for employees to take their allotted vacation time. By reducing the number allowed off for vacation, more people would be available to cover daily vacancies and thus reduce overtime expenditures.
Estimated Savings: Up to $1.5 million annually
Consider the adoption of a fire impact fee:
Impact fees are a viable method for providing funding to maintain the county’s capacity to provide emergency services in a growing environment. The development of a fire impact fee requires a detailed analysis to ensure that the level of the impact fee is appropriately set to reflect the current value of the infrastructure and the ability to maintain this level of investment as the community grows. Many fire impact fees have been set at in the $500 to $700 range for a new single family home. A separate rate structure for business and industry is typically based on square footage and proportionately based on service demand. The potential revenues from a fire impact fee in Kern County could be significant.
Estimated Revenue: Estimated at $500 to $700 per new single family residence
Derek Robinson, Kern County Firefighters presidents, says his biggest issues are the company chosen, the suggestions themselves and the focus on what he says is a nonexistent problem.
"We have long stood firm in our belief that the County doesn't have a budget crisis like they're claiming," said Robinson.
Megan Person, Director of County Wide Communications, says there is a county-wide financial problem and KCFD has their own $8.5 million deficit.
Robinson also says he does not agree with the focus on decreasing staffing.
"It's really ironic that we're talking about this right now. We've got more than 60 firefighters right now and some of the recommendations are about cutting staffing when we should really be talking about increasing staffing on the front lines," said Robinson.
The report will be presented to the Board of Supervisors January 9, 2018.