5/29/2013 9:34:00 AM Overtaxing Prescott Valley may cause town to opt out of CYFD, board member fears
Central Yavapai Fire District Board Chairman John Range, left, swears in Paul Nies as the new Fire Chief in 2011.
File photo courtesy Lisa Irish
CYFD board split on Niesí performance
An often emotional discussion about Central Yavapai Fire Chief Paul Nies' evaluation Tuesday showed he has solid support from two board members and his staff, but two board members gave his overall performance poor marks.
Nies asked for the evaluation in open session, a move board member Debbie Horton said she found uncomfortable. She and fellow board member Steve Rutherford, who ran on the same slate during this past fall's election, gave Nies low ratings in virtually all areas.
Rutherford said he felt Nies did not demonstrate a strong connection to the community, and cited the lack of completion of goals, objectives and strategic plan. He also said Nies does not make an effort to foster a working relationship with him, or communicate in a timely manner.
Horton rated Nies poorly on virtually every point of the evaluation. She cited several CYFD policy manual entries that direct completion of the plan and goals.
Nies said he has set clear goals for firefighters and staff, and every employee knows what is expected of them.
"I have yet to have one of those members come to me and say, 'I don't think you're doing what is right for us.' I hear very much a different story," he said.
Nies said he is very direct, and other agencies with which he works may not always agree with him, but he is always courteous and respectful.
Board member Bob Page said he rated Nies superior on most parts of the evaluation.
Board Chair Bob Gardiner also rated Nies highly, lauding his skills in labor management and teamwork.
Many firefighters and staff members attended and spoke at the meeting, saying Nies gives them clear direction and strong leadership.
Nies asked Rutherford and Horton for examples of how he failed to meet standards. "If you can't tell me, I can't cure it, and we'll be back here next year," he said.
The board agreed to discuss how to proceed with the evaluation in executive session.
Heidi Dahms-Foster Special to the Tribune
Sharply divided after the resignation of board chair John Range, Central Yavapai Fire District board members Tuesday went head to head on a proposed budget and the evaluation of Fire Chief Paul Nies in a more than four-hour meeting.
Board clerk Bob Gardiner stepped into the chairman position per district policy, and the board nominated member Bob Page to serve as clerk.
The district brought forward three budget proposals, but board members focused on the top two options "A" and "B." A primary issue in both proposals is the full staffing of Station 58 at 4850 N. Robert Road in Prescott Valley, and the only difference between the two is that option B uses more contingency money to meet budget requirements.
Station 58 is currently staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. During the meeting, board members heard from several members of the public who stated that having Station 58 open at the time of health emergencies made a difference in outcomes of family members and neighbors.
Option A would maintain a 15 percent contingency fund, pay for merit increases and staff Station 58 full time. The budget would include a tax rate of $2.47, meaning that that for a house valued at $100,000 it will cost the property owner $247 per year for CYFD taxes, an average increase for residential property owners of $18 per year.
Option B's budget includes a tax rate of $2.37. For a house valued at $100,000 it will cost the property owner $237 per year, an average increase of $6 per year.
On both options, the commercial property tax goes down slightly, by $15 on a commercial property valued at $500,000 in option A, and by $102 in option B. Also, in Option A, vacant land valued at $50,000 would see an average increase of $9 per year and $189.60 in Option B.
After a budget presentation by Toni Golden, executive director of administration, board member Steve Rutherford presented several charts, explaining that he is concerned about the district's financial trends. He said projections of continued tax increases through the foreseeable future may eventually cause Prescott Valley, in which most of Central Yavapai's service population resides, to look at opting out of the district and forming its own fire department.
"They have that ability, and I have real concerns that is one possible outcome of this. We need major changes to the budget process," Rutherford said. He also cited the 46 percent decrease in assessed valuation in the district that resulted from the past few years of recession.
"My concern going forward is our ability to recoup that loss," he said, adding he also is worried about continued depletion of the district's budget reserves.
"These are projections and we do have work ahead of us," Golden said. "I agree, I think we need to sit down this year and take a look at that replacement schedule, and re-evaluate where we're putting items and when we're replacing items."
She said the district is looking at grants and purchasing groups as two ways to boost revenue and save money for the district.
Both Rutherford and board member Debbie Horton said they are hampered in budget decisions by the lack of a current strategic plan.
Rutherford suggested the board go with option B, but institute a wage and hiring freeze, remove merit and COLA increases, keep Station 58 staffed part time, and stop new capital expenditures until the capital expenditure and strategic plans are updated.
Gardiner said the district has cut the budget for the past four years, and it is at some point going to impact services.
"Budget A is a small increase, but after four years of decreases - my personal opinion is I'm OK with paying a $1.50 a month (increase)," Gardiner said.
Page said he is against any wage freezes, but if the board goes with option A, it can be modified to meet the needs of the district. Once the district sets a budget, it can spend less, but not more, than is contained in that budget.
Horton said she is most concerned that the district has not told
the board how it will increase revenue. Citing the lack of an updated strategic plan, she said, "You have the cart before the horse. There's no strategic plan tied to all this expenditure."
The current plan expires in 40 days, Horton said, and the board should have a plan to follow going into the future.
Chief Nies said the district has been dealing
with "significant safety issues" in the community during the past six months, and although he's working on it, he said, he has not had time to complete the new plan.
Horton made a motion to adopt budget option B as written and schedule a special session to discuss Rutherford's suggested cuts. That motioned carried with Rutherford dissenting.
Posted: Monday, June 3, 2013
Article comment by:
What are the supposed safety concerns? The firefighters at CYFD have some great safety gear, have a very nice training facility that is set up to train on specific safety issue, and they keep buying stuff. So I do not understand what Chief Nies means by serious safety concerns? Is this another tactic to scare people into buying in to his Phoenix budget at a country price?
I seriously hope the town of Prescott Valley looks in to starting their on fire department. It would alleviate a lot of the issues and internal struggles going on within CYFD. The comm center was the biggest topic. Just remember Chief Nies said there would not be a need to raise taxes to support the comm center. Without the comm center, he wants to raise taxes to keep the district afloat. Imagine if the comm center did go through. The tax increase would had to have happened to support all of the other chiefs that would have been put in to place to run it.
Before people flame me on the town of PV statment, Fire fighters wold not lose their jobs, they would most likely end up working for the town of PV.