In response to the letter from Jason Dixon, “Budgets slashed for zero per cent,” Sooke News Mirror, May 16, 2012.
Council has actually increased the amount of funding per firefighter for training, and also increased other funding to Sooke volunteer firefighters and fire prevention services, all while finding savings in order to achieve a zero per cent tax increase.
When the Finance and Administration Committee met to look at this year’s budget for firefighting services, Fire Chief Steve Sorensen made a presentation to the committee that said there were 29 volunteers this year, compared to 40 last year (there was a reported high of 53). We also factored in three students, so this year’s budget was based on a total of 32 volunteers.
This year’s budget for firefighter training ($20,000) works out to an average of $625 per volunteer, compared to only $536 per volunteer spent in 2011 ($21,472).
In addition, we increased funding to the Firefighters’ Association from $30,000 to $35,000, their first increase in five years. We also increased funding for the volunteer firefighters’ duty officer from $14,300 to $24,300, and raised first response duty remuneration from $14,300 to $24,300. This is an increase of $25,000 over the 2011 budget in these three areas alone.
Finally, all of these discussions were done in public, and we were pleased to see volunteer firefighters attending the meetings and providing input.
We worked together with Chief Sorensen to develop the final budget and training amounts, and Chief Sorensen supported and agreed to the changes. Council and the community support our volunteers, and we remain committed to providing essential funding for fire prevention services.
Chair, Finance and Administration
District of Sooke