Budgets of Tahoe Basin fire districts compared
INCLINE VILLAGE – The cost of fire protection in the Tahoe Basin can vary, as comparisons between the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District and the North Tahoe Fire Protection District will show.
Resident Peyton Gannaway concluded the Incline Village-based district might be over funded, when compared with the 29 departments he surveyed.
Gannaway acknowledges the Incline district is doing a good job for the community, but added, “It doesn’t detract from the fact that the district is overstaffed, over-equipped and over-expensed.”
Statistically, the Incline fire district has covered 16 square miles: the North Lake Tahoe California-Nevada state line to Sand Harbor and up Mount Rose Highway to Incline Lake.
There are 60 employees, plus the Slide Mountain hand crew, in three stations, with a total operating budget $10.4 million.
The assessed value of the district is $1.4 billion.
Ganaway’s budget figures for all those districts or departments surveyed reflected the operating budgets and reserve and other funds collected through taxes.
“If it came from tax dollars, it was counted as part of the budget,” Gannaway said, referring to his budget figure of $12.72 million.
The most comparable district in the basin, the Tahoe-Douglas Fire District, was not surveyed. It has an operating budget of $7.5 million.
According to Assistant Chief Guy LeFever, the Tahoe-Douglas district covers 17.3 square miles: from Glenbrook to Stateline to the top of Kingsbury Grade.
It has 52 employees and five stations, and watches over a population of around 6,800, which increases to 20,000 during the tourist seasons.
While the Tahoe-Douglas budget is about 25 percent less than Incline’s, it’s assessed value – $744 million – is almost half that of Incline Village and Crystal Bay.
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District, which was part of the Gannaway report, serves 15,000 residents on the California side of the North Shore, with about twice that number during the summer.
There are 39 full-time and 25 part-time staff in three stations in the district 24 hours a day and two part-time staffed stations, in charge of protecting 10,227 structures.
Its total budget is $6.14 million, or less than half of the Incline district, according to administrative specialist Kip Cross.
A department Gannaway was unable to survey is the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department.
With a budget of $3.9 million, Chief Mike Chandler said the department employs 35 full-time and one part-time employee, along with 20 volunteers.
Budget cuts, Chandler said, may spell the end to the volunteer program.
“It costs a lot to train them, and I just don’t have the money,” he said.
The department is in charge of 23,000 citizens and double the number during peak tourist times in a 12-square-mile area.
Chandler, who says he is struggling to keep the level of service high, said the Incline district is looked at by all the departments around the lake as a model.
“I know they’re well-funded, and I don’t have a problem with that,” Chandler said. “Jim Linardos is doing some great things for that district. I see no problem with them rising to the highest level of service. My hat’s off to him.”
Chief Brian Schafer of the Lake Valley Protection District, another non-participant in the survey, praises Incline’s fire district for its fuels-management program.
“NLTFPD has implemented the same fuels program that every district in the basin should be emulating,” Schafer said. “They are a pro-active district, and the community should feel fortunate to have them.”