Budget Cheat Sheet: Fire Department

Department: Fire Department

Time and location: Tuesday, April 6th, 10am – 11am. City Council Chambers (4th floor, City Hall)

What the department does: The Fire Department provides firefighting services and emergency medical transportation to city residents. The department also has specialized units such as rapid response and marine rescue.

2010 budget: $188.6 million, although the department is on target to spend $190.5 million by the end of the fiscal year.

What that pays for: The city has five dozen firehouses, 27 ladder companies, more than 200 paramedics, and three fire boats. Most of the departmental budget goes to wages and benefits for employees, with only a small percentage going to outside contracts.

Proposed 2011 budget: $188.1 million

Was it cut last year? Yes, by almost $1 million. Mayor Nutter originally planned to deactivate equipment and remove fire trucks from some locations. The idea met with stiff resistance from the firefighters union and Nutter eventually found savings in other areas.

Major issues: Last year was the lowest recorded number of fire deaths in the city's history. Can we make that number even smaller? EMS calls, meanwhile, have increased in recent years. The city continues to struggle with the question of re-sizing government. Do we have too many fire stations? Not enough?

What to expect at the hearing: There will be pats on the back for the department, as well as a discussion about the administration's proposal to split up the bargaining units of firefighters and paramedics. The firefighters union is in the middle of negotiating a new contract with the city; the parties are currently in arbitration.

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