Fire District No. 5 budget shows raises, not layoffs

PHOENIX — Jackson County Fire District No. 5's board of directors approved a budget with pay raises and promotions Tuesday before a packed audience that came to the meeting fearful of layoffs.

The $4.6 million budget approved by the board included a 4 percent pay raise for paid staff and five scheduled promotions, but no layoffs.

The meeting began on an adversarial note with a standing room crowd of employees, volunteers and supporters concerned about rumors that three to six former Phoenix firefighters would be laid off. The Phoenix department merged with the fire district in 2008 when the district took over fire protection for the city.

Because they have the least seniority, the Phoenix firefighters would have been first to be laid off, said district employees.

Board members pointed out that call volume to the department was down 10 percent and that tax collections were likely to be down because of the poor economy. District 5 Fire Chief Dan Marshall also noted that funds for equipment replacement and contingency were dwindling.

Fire Capt. Bob Holt said the crowd attended the meeting to show support for all the firefighters.

"Basically, all of us are here to show support because we realize people's jobs are in jeopardy ... and we don't take that lightly."

Holt told the board that union employees were, if it had not been made clear already, "willing to compromise."

Phoenix City Councilman Mike Stitt, who was on the council when city residents voted to merge with the fire district, urged the district board to avoid layoffs if possible.

After an hour-long closed executive session, the board reconvened and voted unanimously to approve the budget for the coming fiscal year, with the added pay raises and promotions.

Fred Baumgartner, a board member, warned before the vote that the financial concerns would not go away.

"If everybody else is taking cuts and we weren't able to arrange a cut with our employees ... next year we're not so sure."

Marshall said while layoffs and other cutbacks were possible for the next few years, he was pleased the district could increase staffing levels, assuring that captains and engineers would be on staff at all three stations at all times.

"We could've promoted and laid off but at this point it wasn't the case," Marshall said. "Two or three years down the road — that's a huge concern with the board right now."

Marshall said the promotions will make the budget process more difficult in years to come.

"We're committing to that extra $50,000 every year for those promotions we just made," he said. "The good news is we have a good organizational model, but it's going to be more costly and could impact service levels down the road."

The 115-square-mile district is staffed by 28 paid employees, 12 students and 40 volunteers who respond to 2,200 calls per year.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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