Appears FireFighters Have Had Enough

Appears FireFighters Have Had Enough.

Who can blame them? The WPB FireFighters have issued a Press Release and below are what I wish to draw to readers attention, and the entire PR can be read below along with Fire Fee Facts from 2019 and the most telling Fire Assessment Expenditures. My questions / commentswill be in Italic.


[WEST PALM BEACH, FL – July 20, 2021] The West Palm Beach Association of Firefighters announced today a formal opposition to the misuse of the recently increased city fire fee. The fire fee was created to stabilize funding for firefighters and paramedics during periods of economic volatility, when emergency call volume tends to be its highest. In 2019 citizens of West Palm Beach were asked to increase the fire assessment fee from $50 to $100. The West Palm Beach Association of Firefighters supported the increase under the premise that the City Administration committed to provide:
1. Two new fire trucks to increase the level of service to our community.
2. Additional firefighters to staff these two trucks.
3. $3 million dollars appropriated directly to these items.
4. Quarterly reporting and an increased level of transparency of where the money is allocated. To date, only one additional firetruck has been placed in service. That truck has been staffed by existing personnel on overtime hours, which in turn has impacted the fire department’s budget.
None of the other commitments provided by the City Administration have been kept “The misuse of these funds is having a truly detrimental impact on the Fire Department,” commented Jayson French, President of the West Palm Beach Association of Firefighters. “For the first time in history, our fire department is not a coveted place to work. Our staffing for emergency responses has fallen well below Palm Beach County standards. When the fire fee, which amounts to nearly $8 Million, is not used for the fire department it is merely another tax unknowingly created on the backs of our firefighters.”

The West Palm Beach Association of Firefighters has stated that they feel the city fire fee should either be used appropriately for fire department needs, or else abolished and the money returned to the citizens that paid it. For more information see the PR below.

firefighter fee press release.docx (2)

Our union stood in support of the fire assessment fee with the understanding that the funds would be used in accordance with the commission’s 2019 guidance. This guidance was agreed on record during a commission meeting. The citizen’s fire assessment fee was created to stabilize the fire dept budget. This fee was not meant to balance the general fund. If the fee is used to balance the general fund it is no different than property tax.
Commission Meeting 8/26/19 part 2  https://vimeo.com/channels/781232/356198501

The city Manager verbally confirmed these items during the commission meeting:
1. Two new fire trucks to increase the level of service to our community.
2. 9 additional firefighters to staff these two trucks. The number is actually 18 which equals the amount of $ confirmed. However, on record, the city manager stated 9.
3. $3 million dollars appropriated directly to these items. Technically, it is 2.8 million needed to fulfill these items.
4. Commissioners requested quarterly reporting and an increased level of transparency of where the money is allocated To date, only one item has been fulfilled. One additional fire truck was placed in service in October 2019. City Commissioners have you received the quarterly reports you requested? Are you aware of how the Fire Fee is used? The document below “Statement of Encumbrances and Expenditures” should be an eye opener for you. I remind you once again you five Commissioners oversee the City’s Internal Auditor and it will take three of you to vote for an audit on the Fire Fee and how the money is used or mis-used. I would suggest looking for a slush fund. Top management will not do their jobs——will you?

fire fee facts from 2019 vote (1)

Statement of Encumbrances and Expenditures is a two (2) page document, and I draw readers attention to the bottom of the 2nd. page where it states over $6.4 million dollars “Transfers and other financing uses.” Commissioners reading the document is this the first time you are aware $6.4 million was raised and used elsewhere?  You will also note two additional transferes and I requested what account #304 & 210 were, and received the response below. I am not comfortable knowing the City used $6.4 million dollars  for reasons  other than what tax dollars were raised for, equipment and raises for our Fire Dept. If that’s not criminal I don’t know what is.

1.”304 is a capital acquisition fund. $703k transferred is noted as reserved for future projects. It is never expensed. It rolls over into the next year and accumulates annually.
2. 210 is Other Debt Service Fund. The $2.7MM is transferred into other debt service. However $1.7MM is placed into a line of credit from 2013. The remaining is placed into fire truck leases.
3. Keep in mind. None of these expenses expand emergency services or complete the agreed upon terms of the $50 increase of the Fire Assessment.”