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|Hemphill reports sound finances at OPFD|
The financial situation of the Ouachita Parish Fire Department has been better than anticipated in 2008 due to unexpected revenue during the year.
On Monday, Ouachita Parish police jurors discussed the proposed 2009 budget for the Ouachita Parish Fire Department.
"It looks like we're going to bring in more money than budgeted, said Chief Pat Hemphill, referring to the fire department's finances in 2008.
"We did roll back the millage rate from 19.24 to 19.11, but we're still going to have just a little more than we budgeted for 2008 according to the tax assessor," Hemphill said. "This year, sales tax is going to do better than we expected, so we're going to come in under budget, and that allows us to put more in capital outlay funds."
Hemphill recommended the police jury amend the 2008 fire department budget's sale tax projections from $5.1 million to $6 million due to the increase.
The proposed 2009 budget calls for $5.5 million in sales tax collection. Hemphill expects the increase in 2008's sales tax was probably non-recurring. He preferred to remain conservative with projections for the next fiscal year.
Revenues in the 2008 budget also should be amended from $12 million to $13.1 million, Hemphill said Monday.
The overall projected revenue for the 2009 budget is $12.7 million.
The proposed 2009 budget also calls for $11.9 million in expenditures. Expenditures for 2008 were $11.2 million.
Hemphill also has requested the police jury approve a 2 percent overall pay increase for employees as well as an increase in their base pay from $1,735 per month to $1,800.
Hemphill believes increasing the base pay of employees will help the department recruit and retain new employees.
Hemphill proposed a 4 percent increase for parish firefighter's base salary during budget discussions last year. The police jury eventually declined to approve that request.
The fire department also plans to add six new firefighters during 2009.
"We're not replacing retirees or anyone who leaves … that's actually adding to our workforce by six," Hemphill said. "The reason we'll be able to hire these six people, plus give pay increases to our existing employees, is because we're going to drastically reduce the amount of overtime we'll pay in 2009. There was a lot of overtime this year to keep all of our stations open."
Last year, the fire department added 12 new firefighters to help keep all fire stations open without overtime expenses.
Overtime expenses were roughly $300,000 last year to keep all of the parish's stations open while the 12 new firefighters were trained.
"Now that the group we hired is able to work those spots, we're not having to pay overtime to keep those spots covered," Hemphill explained. "It's a whole lot less expensive to have a permanent employee cover that spot than it is to pay overtime. I think we'll be able to reduce our overtime expenses by $270,000 next year, which will more than cover those six employees plus some of the raises."
The OPFD Citizens Advisory Committee has reviewed the proposed 2009 fire department budget. It has not made a recommendation. The committee is expected to meet Nov. 13 where it will make recommendations on the proposed budget to present to the police jury.