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Fire board sets final budget

September 25, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Two anticipated Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District personnel positions will not be filled due to action related to the local fire budget process for the upcoming fiscal year.

During its final public budget hearing for fiscal year 2013-14 last week, the Fort Myers Beach Board of Fire Commissioners adopted a final millage rate of 2.5137 mills and lowered its budget by more than $100,000 to ensure taxes would not be increased by the island's independent taxing district. The adopted millage is equal to the roll back rate. It supports a newly approved budget of $13,877,060.

To reduce its budget by such an amount, Beach Fire Control District officials decided to remove proposed wages from two unfilled personnel positions - a total of $100,553- and make cuts from operational costs or capital expenditures. The reduced budgeted expenditures total $104,000.

"The board was specific it did not want to reduce reserves to cover the lower millage rate," said Beach Fire Finance Director Jane Thompson.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, during its first public budget hearing at Town Hall, the Fort Myers Beach Board of Fire Commissioners was told it would have to knock off $104,000 from Beach Fire's prepared budget to lower its tentative millage rate of 2.5500 to its roll back rate of 2.5136. That action would guarantee that taxes would not be raised.

At that time, Beach Fire had a proposed budget of $13,983,600 and reflected the hiring of two additional entry level personnel.

The fire commissioners decided to stand pat on the existing rate of 2.5500 mils, then looked to cut expenditures at the following Tuesday's budget workshop. It then made the official actions at the final budget hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Currently, the staffing level at Beach Fire stands at 15 personnel per shift. The proposed new hires would have increased manpower to 16 per shift.

"Due to the time off we allow, we do allow an apparatus (fire truck) with only two people on it," said Beach Fire Chief Darren White. "I was trying to get away from that. Having the total staffing of 16 per shift would have maintained three people on each fire truck and, of course, two people on the ambulances. "

The unfilled positions is not that big of an issue, says White. Beach Fire hired six employees last year, and those hires are still on the usual yearly probation period.

"We really don't have the time or capability to hire another batch of people before the end of next fiscal year (2013-14)," said White. "Because we only hire paramedics, they have to get credentialed first. It's actually a lengthy process to go through. Due to the overlap, this year is not a problem. Next year, we plan to put (the unfilled positions) back in."

Officially, three of the six hires were hired in October and could face a three-month probation extension if not ready. The other three were hired in February.

Even without the proposed hirings, White is confident with the current staffing level going into the upcoming busier tourism season.

Edison State EMT program recognized nationally

Anyone looking to begin a career in the EMT field can be confident in learning locally.

Edison State College's Emergency Medical Technician program was recognized as one of the top 80 institutions with the highest return on investment for graduates according to Fire Science online at and Edison State College ranked 47th, and 20 colleges of the top 80 were Florida colleges.

"Students in our program are receiving the best possible education because of the sophisticated class and simulation projects, and the partnerships we have with surrounding organizations that work with First Responders," said Joseph Washburn, EMT-P, RN, MAA, Director of Emergency Services Programs at Edison State College.

The Emergency Medical Services Technology Program at Edison State is designed to prepare students to become competent entry-level Emergency Medical Technicians and/or Paramedics. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs in conjunction with the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions.

The Fire Science Online wanted students to understand which schools offered excellent programs at affordable rates, and created a list of the top 80 in the U.S. More than 1,100 colleges and institutions offered EMT programs, and to calculate the programs with high ROI's, Fire Science Online reviewed national salary, tuition, enrollment and accreditation data. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of paramedics and EMTs is projected to grow by 33 percent between 2010 and 2020. To learn more about Fire Science Online, and review additional data on the EMT rankings, visit

For more information about Edison's Emergency Technician Programs, or related degrees and certificates, visit or call 489-9392 (ext. 1392). For more information on graduation rates, employment statistics and earnings data for Florida college programs, visit

--submitted by Jessica Clark



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