The COVID-19 has had an effect on the way emergency service operates and budgetary responsibilities.
For the Arizona Fire & Medical Authority, Assistant Chief Mary Dalton said during the June 23 public hearing on the 2020-21 budget and operational plan, this year’s budget is balanced, transparent and ensures the Authority is positioned to maintain excellent service delivery while being fiscally stable moving forward.
Ms. Dalton noted during the meeting the tax rate or North County Fire & Medical District remains at $2.86. Additionally, per the June 23 governing board meeting minutes, Ms. Dalton highlighted the budgetary changes for fiscal year 2020-21, noting an ambulance revenue decrease of $101,233, grant funding in the amount of $193,000, retirement plan increases of $275,151, health insurance increases of $253,328, contingency fund increases of $187, 045, repairs and maintenance increases of $102,130, dispatch contract increases of $38,207 and medical supply/equipment increases of $25,920, Board election costs are $24,099 for the 2020 general election.
That and other factors brought the total proposed budget to $30.5 million.
Per a press release issued July 6, AFMA and its partner agencies adopted the 2020-21 annual budget, which continues to promote collaborative strength and local commitment. The annual budget provides funding to preserve vital fire and medical services to more than 75,000 residents in all the communities served by the Authority.
“AFMA budget and operational plan for this year was worked through in the middle of the pandemic, keeping in mind both the financial and operational impact from the virus is still unknown.” AFMA Deputy Chief Eric Kriwer said. “So the Authority acted conservatively throughout the budget process and included what was absolutely necessary.”
Part of that financial responsibility came in 2017 when the Authority created the first emergency services Joint Powers Authority in Maricopa County. According to Mr. Kriwer, this is an entity permitted under Arizona statutes, where two or more public entities can jointly exercise any power common to all on them while maintaining separate financial responsibilities.
The partnership includes the North County, which includes Sun City West and the South County. Both retain local control over community service levels and budgets, but things like personnel, equipment and daily operations are administered by an Authority board. Mr. Kriwer explained the Authority allocates expenses to each partner based on the actual operations costs, which means taxpayers only pay for the costs related to the specific area’s emergency services, but benefit from a reduction in administrative overhead.
“As an elected board member, it is our collective responsibility to present a balanced budget for the fiscal year.” Diane Price, board member, said. “We take this responsibility very seriously. The 2020-21 budget is a collaboration of various groups, including board members, Authority staff and community residents. We are pleased to submit a balanced budget that maintains the highest quality emergency services, fiscal responsibility and a conservative optimism for the future ahead.”
For more information regarding the Authority or to review the fiscal year 2020-21 annual budget and operational plan details, visit afma.az.gov.