Public Policy: Fire Department Consolidation

The City of Dallas, Sheridan Fire District, SW Polk Rural Fire Protection District, and West Valley Fire District are proposing a pilot consolidation of their fire and ems services. Once approved, a joint management services agreement between the four agencies could go into effect as early as July 1st, 2019. The following questions and answers provide details about the proposed consolidation.

What is changing?

The four agencies are considering a pilot consolidation of their fire and ems service delivery systems. Phase I of the consolidation would involve only management functions. All firefighters employed by each department would remain employees of their current departments, and all current bargaining agreements would remain in place. Phase I of the consolidation would include sharing the cost of a single fire chief, restructuring administrative support functions, and exploring opportunities to leverage resources through joint purchasing power. The four fire agencies also would establish a single operational structure and implement standardized training, policies, and procedures.

This effort will take the place of the several current individual intergovernmental agreements these agencies have between each other currently.

Phase II bring the benefits from consolidation that occurred in phase I to allow for increased response personnel and thus provide quicker, faster, safer services to our citizens.

Why are the four fire agencies considering consolidation?

All four agencies have operated their own fire and ems service system since their inception. Each agency has their own history of previous consolidation efforts to enhance their service delivery system. There is high level of cooperation between the four agencies, yet they maintain separate organizational infrastructures. As is the case in many areas, budgetary pressures are creating difficulties in maintaining appropriate levels of service. The goal of the proposed consolidation is to provide the best fire and ems services possible to the areas and communities given available resources. The plan would eliminate redundancy and duplication of effort, provide opportunities for cost savings, and enhance the level of service for all four agencies. At the same time, the proposed consolidation would generate significant savings over individually meeting the same service levels.

Are these the first fire and ems services to consider consolidation?

No. consolidating fire and ems services is a nationwide trend to maintain fire and emergency medical response in the face of budget challenges. There are several nearby completed examples: Lane Fire Authority, Redmond Fire District, and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. Several other nearby areas are considering similar process: McMinnville, Forest Grove, Cornelius, and Albany.

Will this consolidation of fire and emergency medical services affect my annual tax payment?

Yes, there will be an increase in the annual property tax, however, the increase will be less than if the fire and ems systems were enhanced as individual agency systems. The amount of any increase will vary upon which service area you are located within.

The chart below describes each agency annual tax changes.

Agency Name Dallas Fire & EMS Sheridan District Fire SW Polk Fire West Valley Fire
Current tax rate per $1000 $1.21 $1.47 $1.54 $1.46
Individual tax rate per $1000 $2.65 $2.45 $2.57 $3.23
Consolidated tax rate per $1000 $1.94 $1.94 $1.94 $1.94

 

Would there be other benefits associated with consolidation?

Infrastructure improvements associated with the consolidation will improve service to the community. For example, all agencies could begin using a common information technology service including the need for meeting Oregon Records Retention laws. Emergency planning could also be improved through common practices and stronger communication.

Who would oversee the consolidated department?

Beginning in Phase I, the fire chief would be shared by all agencies. In addition to the fire chief, all agencies would share several senior command staff personnel. The fire chief would report to the Fire & EMS Planning Coalition.

What impact would the consolidation have on fire and emergency medical services to the area involved?

The consolidation effort is designed to increase fire & ems services within all agency areas involved. Eliminating the current vacant administrative positions within each agency thus allowing for those dollars to increase the number of fire and ems service providers.

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