By LEAH STRATMANN
There’s an old song about giving a little, taking a little and letting your heart break a little, which accurately sums up events at last week’s South Walton Fire District (SWFD) board meeting.
According to Rich Talbert, chief of SWFD, the board of commissioners for the district had a second reading of the budget for 2012-13 and adopted it. The new budget calls for a millage rate of .8999 which is .76 percent below the rollback rate.
“This rate keeps everyone on the payroll for the next year and does not interfere with the level of service we currently offer,” Talbert noted.
Another seminal meeting concerned ongoing negotiations between SWFD and the firefighters labor union. Some points of contention have been hammered out over several years. One of these was coming to some agreement the team has worked on with labor concerning the multiplier used at retirement. Henceforth anyone hired after Oct. 1 of this year will he eligible for only a reduced multiplier.
Both sides agreed to a pay freeze as well as an educational freeze for all members. In addition union members have agreed that complaints about adaptive staffing will cease. Adaptive staffing is a measure begun last year in which one unit is taken out of service from time to time to save on overtime and maintenance. The measure has not reduced the level of service to the community, but has saved the district several thousand in over time hours. Adaptive staffing disagreements will end and the district may employ adaptive staffing when warranted.
“Everybody got a little bit of what they wanted. Labor set out to achieve some things and we got some concessions from labor. We will use some reserve and we modestly increased our millage. It is tough to reduce spending when the entire county is working at deficit spending,” Talbert explained.
The district plans to use about $300,000 in reserves this year. “We are watching every time very carefully and hopefully all of the agreements will be signed next week,” Talbert concluded.