City enters into fire protection services contract

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The City of Canyon Lake’s current cooperative agreement with the County of Riverside for fire protection services will expire on June 30. On Monday, the City Council authorized City Manager Chris Mann to enter into a one-year cooperative agreement for fire protection, fire prevention, rescue, fire marshal and medical emergency services with the County of Riverside.

The estimated cost of the contract for fire protection services for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2020, is $2,259,064. This estimate is based on maintaining a “municipal” staffing model through August 2019 and then switching to a “non-municipal” (also known as “traditional”) staffing model for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Under a “municipal” staffing model, there is a captain on shift at all times. Under the “non-municipal” model, there is just one captain. When that captain is off shift, the next highest ranking person is in charge of the station. This staffing change will save the city approximately $95,000 in the 2019/2020 fiscal year. “If we had not made the change, our contract with the county would have increased by $125,000. With the change, the increase is only about $30,000,” Mann said.

While the staff is concerned by the alarming rate at which the county has been increasing the costs charged to the city for providing fire protection services, time is needed to find a viable solution to this challenge.  The city entered into one more twelve-month cooperative agreement with the county with the intention of exploring cost-saving options for future fiscal years.

Since 2014, the amount the county has charged the city for providing fire protection and emergency medical services has risen approximately 79 percent. City revenues, while also growing, have not been able to keep pace. These drastic increases have thrown the city’s budget into a structural deficit. If not corrected, the city’s budget deficit of nearly $670,000 will quickly eat away at its General Fund reserves, estimated at $3.7 million. As the current budget situation is not sustainable, the City Council and city staff are in the process of evaluating potential options.

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