Fire salary concessions lead to balanced budget for Arlington's EMS program

ARLINGTON — When the initial projections for the 2013 Arlington city budget were being made, Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman recognized the city had a problem. With property values declining again and the economy still recovering, the city's EMS system was going to be $380,000 short in 2013.

So in early July, Stedman brought all the players that make the EMS system run in Arlington together to solve the problem, including the city's EMS partners, the Arlington City Council, the full-time firefighters and the volunteer firefighters. After discussions that lasted a number of weeks, a five-prong plan was developed to address the shortfall in order to continue providing essential services to the greater Arlington community and the town of Darrington.

First, the EMS Budget for 2012 and 2013 would immediately be reviewed, with an eye to reducing all city line items. Second, all of the city's EMS partners — including Fire Districts 19, 21, 24 and 25 — amended their current service contracts with the city to provide additional funding to the EMS program. Third, all fire administration personnel agreed to a 5 percent salary concession in 2012 and 2013. Fourth, all volunteer firefighters also agreed to a 5 percent concession of the daily stipend they receive for volunteering their time to protect the community and provide aid when needed. Fifth, the full-time firefighters agreed to a 6.5 percent salary concession.

All of these elements combined resulted in eliminating the $380,000 projected deficit and Arlington's EMS program will operate in the black in 2013.

"I am extremely proud of the level of commitment each of these groups showed in helping balancing our 2013 EMS budget, while limiting any negative impact on the service level to our communities," Stedman said.

Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield described the concessions made by all parties as evidence of "an incredible act of selflessness to ensure that the residents and visitors of the greater Arlington community receive the best care possible in an emergency."

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