Plus one: Ann Arbor City Council agrees to increase fire department staffing level to 86 FTEs
The Ann Arbor City Council followed City Administrator Steve Powers' advice Thursday night and increased the fire department's authorized staffing level by one position.
The vote was 10-0 with Sandi Smith absent.
The city recently filled six vacancies in the fire department, bringing staffing up to 85 full-time employees, the level approved by the City Council in August.
Through the hiring process, Powers said, the city identified seven qualified candidates, and so Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard and Safety Services Administrator John Seto asked that the fire department's authorized staffing level be increased by one more position — up to 86 FTEs.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
For the remainder of the budget year, which ends June 30, the estimated expense of one additional firefighter is $50,000. Powers said funding is available in the general fund since the city is anticipating higher-than-budgeted revenue from the state's Economic Vitality Incentive Program.
The estimated cost in fiscal year 2013-14 is $82,000. Powers said the city's staff is preparing next year's budget and will incorporate that expense.
The resolution to increase staffing in the fire department was sponsored by Mayor John Hieftje and Council Members Marcia Higgins, Jane Lumm and Christopher Taylor.
Lumm ran for council last year on a campaign platform that called for increasing staffing in both police and fire departments. During her campaign, she noted more than a third of the staffing in both departments had been cut over the past decade. The fire department had 131 FTEs in 2001.
The city is still evaluating the fire chief's proposal from earlier this year to reorganize the fire department and close stations — going from five to three stations. Given the department's limited staffing resources, Hubbard believes consolidating resources makes sense.
Hubbard said in the city's last budget process he ideally would like to get the fire department's staffing up to a "magic number" of 88 FTEs.
The city actually started the fiscal year with 82 FTEs budgeted for the fire department. That went up to 85 after the city secured a $642,294 federal grant that allowed hiring three more firefighters.