The Key Peninsula Fire Department has invited the community to a regular meeting of its Board of Fire Commissioners at 5 p.m. Tuesday at station headquarters, 8911 Key Peninsula Highway in Key Center.
The topic will be how revenue from last year’s voter-approved levy will be used to fund eight firefighter positions.
Voters passed the four-year measure in November for $800,000 to help the fire district improve its emergency response. Eight new firefighters was the goal, but budget realities — a $200,000 shortfall — mean the department will only be able to afford to hire four new positions.
Four positions will be filled with firefighters who were due to receive layoff notices because of budget issues that were beyond the fire district’s control.
“We want the public to know that the levy will fund eight firefighter positions, as we promised,” Fire Chief Tom Lique said. “No money will be used for overhead or administration.”
The fire district is receiving significantly less revenue from Pierce County because of a continued decline in property values. Another issue is the legal requirement that the district rehire an injured firefighter who announced that he was fit and ready to return to work.
The fire department plans to maintain four positions out of budget reserves until the levy funds start to come through in May. Lique said he and the board couldn’t layoff firefighters considering the challenges the district faces to provide an emergency response.
Four positions will be filled by new hires. The fire district plans to hire two new firefighters in 2013 once there are enough levy funds collected to pay for training, gear and salaries. It plans to bring on another two firefighters in 2014 when enough money has been collected to pay for those positions, as well.
At the Feb. 12 meeting, Lique will discuss the budget issues that impact the district and cover the schedule for bringing the new recruits on board. He also will suggest to the board that the district stop collecting the levy if they are unable to show an improvement in response times by the end of 2014.
The meeting is expected to last an hour. The public is encouraged to attend and ask questions.
The Key Peninsula Fire Department serves 17,000 people over 65 square miles. For more information, visit www.keypeninsulafire.org.