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Communities mull NSFD capital budget fund

June 17, 2009

The North Shore Fire Department could soon have its own capital budget, preventing the organization from having to raid its operating budget to cover equipment and facility costs.

At their individual upcoming meetings, the member communities will consider amending the agreement governing the North Shore Fire Department to allow separately funded operating and capital budgets. Each community would contribute its share toward capital purchases, which would be determined on a yearly or multi-year, as-needed basis.

The NSFD Board on June 11 approved the amendment unanimously, but it does not go into effect until each community also agrees.

The operating budget has been insufficient for the department's capital needs, buildings and equipment, for most of its history.

River Hills and NSFD board president Robert Brunner said he hopes to have a capital purchase plan for 2010 that can be rolled into the individual community budgets.

"It's important to each community to have good numbers for planning," he said.

On Monday night, the Brown Deer Village Board became the first of the seven communities to adopt the amendment. River Hills was scheduled to take action last night with others to follow on normal meeting dates in coming weeks.

Brown Deer Village President Carl Krueger said the creation of a capital budget outside the operating budget is similar to what is done for all departments in the village.

"In most instances, there is a separate capital plan," he said.

Trustees had a few questions.

"What would you do if this amendment were not passed?" said Trustee Andrea Weddle-Henning.

Deputy Chief Robert Whitaker said the individual communities have issued bonds on behalf of the department in the past and the fund balance has also been used. Because of the impact of increasing costs and the 2 percent restriction on levy increases, the department had to dip into fund balance. In 2008, its budget ran roughly $200,000 in the red.

"If this doesn't pass, it would likely have a service impact," Whitaker said.

Village Manager Russell Van Gompel said the NSFD capital budget would be used for major equipment purchases such as vehicles. The department's first priorities are an ambulance and an engine.

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