Facebook January 9, 2013 at Jay Corbin’s page: “The Twentynine Palms city council will have a special meeting Monday Jan 14th @ 6pm to discuss the financial crisis at the 29 Palms Fire Dept. They are currently spending about $300,000 more than they take in; their expenses are about 25% more than their income. Their reserves are nearly depleted; at their current pace they will be insolvent soon. They also owe a stack of cash to PERS, their retirement system. To date the water board has not adopted a solution and are instead assigning either blame or responsibility to the City of Twentynine Palms. As your councilmember I have to call upon the many reasonable people in our community to learn the facts and speak up. Reasonable voices need to be heard.”
Jay is commended for trying to increase community awareness of our Fire Department problem.
However, as some of us suspected when it was learned that city manager Warne and Jay Corbin met with water board director Chambers there was going to be fly in the stew. The stew got more and more unpalatable as I and others asked to see the presentation that Mr. Warne and Jay Corbin presented to director Chambers but were denied access because that presentation was in “draft” form and fell under an exemption as per the California Public Records Act according to the members of the city staff. That is still being debated but that is another subject for another time.
Jay, you have the information right but your interpretation of the information is… well… in error.
You were at the same meeting that I was at of our water district where Chief Thompson clearly showed how measure “I”, the 2005 funding measure, actually would work. So lets take you facebook statement and analyze it in regards to the facts not what Mr. Warne wants it to be.
“They are currently spending about $300,000 more than they take in; their expenses are about 25% more than their income.”, correct. What you are not saying is that when the measure first passed the fire department was spending $300,000.00 less than what they were taking in. It was designed that way and the voters fully well knew that there would be a surplus of cash at the beginning which would go into the fund balance. As time went by, 4 years, to be exact, expenditures and income would be balanced and during the last 4 years of the measure that “saved” fund balance would be used to fund the fire department at the same level that we had in 2005. That being two fire stations and six fire fighters. In other words your snapshot picture of revenue and expenditures over the last 4 to 5 years paints an inaccurate picture and does nothing in assisting in solving our pending public safety crisis.
“Their reserves are nearly depleted; at their current pace they will be insolvent soon. They also owe a stack of cash to PERS, their retirement system.”, mostly correct but not totally correct. Yes as explained above the “reserves” or fund balance are almost depleted but as I pointed out that was by design and had to be that way when you consider that the funding mechanism of the parcel tax is a flat rate revenue source as compared to the ever increasing revenue source of the city. True, the fire department will be insolvent soon – again exactly what the voters voted for back in 2005. As for the PERS retirement. Those astronomical numbers are applicable only if the water district ceases to manage the Fire Department. All the current PERS payments are in fact current and paid just as the PERS payments of the city are current and paid.
I think Kelly O’Sullivan hit the nail on the head on your facebook page, “I know it’s not about blame, but blaming and finger-pointing has been going on for months, most of it making the city out to be a big bunch of you-know-whats. You absolutely all need to sit down and analyze things line by line if necessary, Jay, and come at it from a place of understanding and a willingness to go forward. That’s what I was trying to say.”
Or as I have said it, it is time for the city to step up to the plate and if that means funding our Fire Department in some manner then so be it. The Fire Department has not been mismanaged at all and no amount of finger pointing or misrepresentation of numbers will help us solve this very crucial public safety crisis.
We need innovative thinkers and leaders out there and you are fully capable of being that leader.