2012-09-08 / News

Analysis: Village property owners pay $228,200 a year for broken department

By Charles Prince

BUCKEYE LAKE – Village property owners are paying $228,200 a year for their disfunctional fire department.

The funds come from a five mill property tax levy that is currently being collected at the rate of 4.92 mills on residential property. That means the tax rate is $4.92 for each $1,000 of taxable value. Properties are taxed at 35 percent of their assessed value.

The levy expires this year, but will be collected through 2013. A renewal levy will be on the November 6 ballot, giving voters an opportunity to express their opinion on how their taxes are being spent.

A rejection of the renewal levy in November would largely be symbolic since village officials would have two more opportunities to put it on the ballot in 2013 without a break in tax collection. Nevertheless, a rejection might finally convince village officials that the department, particularly its emergency medical services, needs a complete overhaul.

Fire Chief Pete Leindecker is paid $450 a month for a total of $5,400 a year. Assistant Fire Chief Rod Riley receives $250 a month for a total of $3,000 a year. The part-time EMS staff pay rates are $9.25 per hour for EMT-Basics and $10.75 per hour for paramedics. Payments in 2011 totalled $104,771.73 for part-time paid staff. Another $15,000 was paid in points to volunteers based on how many runs they made. The village’s fire fund carried over $155,389.46 from last year. This year’s carryover will be significantly higher.

We have now been able to complete our staffing evaluation for August. Here’s the low lights:

• 22.6 percent (21 shifts) of the shifts were not even scheduled;

• 11.8 percent (11 shifts) were not filled due to no shows;

• 32.3 percent (30 shifts) were uncovered;

• Six days had just one of the three shifts covered; and

• One day (August 11) had no shifts covered.

Attention to detail is so poor that only 28 percent of the shifts (26 out of the 93 total shifts during the month) met our on-time standard – no more than five minutes of the shift was uncovered. Nearly as many shifts – 23 or 24.7 percent – met our “whenever” standard, meaning that more than an hour of the shift was not covered. Many of these “whenever” shifts were uncovered far more than an hour.

Here are some of the times when the overnight shift (8 p.m. to 8 a.m.) person actually left during August: 6:21 a.m., 5:26 a.m., 4:49 a.m., 4:24 a.m., 5:35 a.m., 5:38 a.m., 5:16 a.m., 4:01 a.m., 5:41 a.m., 4:11 a.m., 6:59 a.m., 3:30 a.m., and 3:20 a.m.

The large number of “whenever” and no show shifts demonstrate the complete lack of or expectation for accountability. Our analyses show that these failures are not a recent event; they have been occurring at least since the end of March.

Two new names showed up on the time cards this month – one on the schedule and one as a substitute. Unfortunately, it still appears to be business as usual. One of the new part-timers didn’t show up for his very first scheduled shift. He may have had a valid excuse, but that shift was one of the 30 shifts uncovered in August. The other new part-timer worked “whatever” hours on both of his shifts in August.

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