The Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized the Riverside County Fire Department to recoup an estimated $54.34 million from cities and the county in the current fiscal year to operate the agency’s dispatch center, maintain the fleet, support volunteer units and provide other services.
The board approved the fire department’s 2018-19 cost allocation plan without comment. According to agency figures, pooled expenses are anticipated to increase 2.81 percent compared to the 2017-18 fiscal year, when outlays totaled $52.85 million.
Cities are billed directly for their fire protection personnel and for some additional expenses, including electricity to power fire stations and keep them in working order. However, leftover costs are spread among 20 municipalities and the county.
The leftovers include paying for the fire department’s firefighter reserve program, funding the hazardous materials unit, maintaining equipment, tracking inventories and managing dispatch services, according to agency documents.
Officials attributed year-to-year cost increases mainly to higher personnel expenses in the form of salaries and benefits.
The county contracts with the California Department of Forestry — Cal Fire — for fire protection services, and most incorporated communities within the county, in turn, contract with the county.
About 1,000 Cal Fire personnel work for the county, while the county directly employs 200 fire department staffers, including accountants, mechanics, payroll administrators, public information officers and others.
The county itself will continue to pay the largest sum of shared expenses — $25.83 million, up from $24.46 million in 2017-18, according to the cost allocation plan.
The five cities expected to have the highest cost burdens in 2018-19 are:
— Moreno Valley, $3.96 million, down 1 percent;
— Palm Desert, $2.77 million, down 1.4 percent;
— Temecula, $2.67 million, up 9 percent;
— Menifee, $2.52 million, up 5 percent; and
— Indio, $2.4 million, down 2.5 percent.
The formula for assigning costs is based on the work of a committee that first convened more than a decade ago.
Although contract entities will be billed quarterly for their share, the final cost tally will not be known until the end of the fiscal year, at which point adjustments will be made to ensure no one is overpaying or underpaying, officials said.
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