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North Shore Fire Department cannot work within their budget.

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  • North Shore Fire Department cannot work within their budget.

    Wow, I wonder if we ran our household budget like this if we would be living on the street. It’s really sad to see management make so many excuses and not take responsibility for their lack of planning.

    Shame on you taking out your shortcomings on those that served the department there entire careers.


    Fire Chief David Berousek’s recommendation to cover a year-end deficit of $341,383 with fund balance was accepted Jan. 8 by the North Shore Fire Department board of directors.

    The department started 2008 with $1,296,666 in reserve, or fund balance. Since the formation of the department in 1995, the board has attempted to use reserve funds for capital purchases, such as fire engines, ladders and ambulances. After deducting the shortfall and another $286,500, a partial payment on a new fire engine, the department ended 2008 with a fund balance of $668,783. A final $200,000 payment for the fire engine will be deducted from that account in 2009,

    Berousek explained the major factors in the $341,383 deficit, which rose from $204,000 at the end of November.

    Health insurance was 7 percent higher than budgeted; nine retirements in 2008 required a cash payout for unused sick time and severance pay per the labor contract; and overtime costs were higher than budgeted. In addition, attorney’s fees for the labor contract negotiations, rising fuel costs and higher than budgeted costs for phone service contributed to the total deficit.

    The shortfall might have increased to an even higher amount, but the department put a freeze on all unnecessary spending in the fall. It also benefitted from additional revenue from higher than anticipated payments for permit fees and state funding and the sale of used equipment, Berousek said.

    Notice option rejected
    Berousek said the department’s budget provides only a small margin for swings in various accounts.

    “We never could recover from the $300,000 pay out (for retirees) earlier in the year,” he said.

    During the recently concluded labor contract negotiations, management asked for six months notice for retirements but the union rejected the proposal.

    “In order to pay out, we need to budget for it,” Berousek said.

    There is no money in the 2009 budget for retirement payouts. In a typical year, the department would cover the cost of the payouts by holding the position open for a period of time, using the salary and benefit money to cover the cost. That has worked well in past years when there were fewer retirements, but the number of retirements taking place in the first quarter put the department in new territory, requiring not only the payouts but overtime to cover the vacancies. The department also had higher overtime costs throughout the year because of injuries to firefighters.

  • #2
    Ya' know, I read this a couple times, and I have to say it doesn't appear...at least to me...unless I'm missing something...that they didn't spend foolishly.
    "If the ladder goes up, the building goes down."


    • #3
      During the recently concluded labor contract negotiations, management asked for six months notice for retirements but the union rejected the proposal.
      Yup, definitely management issues.
      "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?


      • #4
        ...although, I will agree that management should have had enough 'vision' to know what should be looming ahead. As far as retirement is concerned...wouldn't you know by 6 months as to whether you are ready for retirement or not?
        "If the ladder goes up, the building goes down."


        • #5
          Originally posted by Breech31 View Post
          ...although, I will agree that management should have had enough 'vision' to know what should be looming ahead. As far as retirement is concerned...wouldn't you know by 6 months as to whether you are ready for retirement or not?

          Not necessarily, people change their minds all the time for whatever reason. We have had guys say they were going to retire and then pull their letter. We had a guy pull his letter the day he was going to retire. There have been some cases where a guy wanted to retire within a few weeks notice and did so. Sometimes it is people just looking to work the system or **** others off, but there are times that it is the employees right to leave when they want.

          Another thing is that in WI, your three highest years are used for determining one's retirement. Insurance is also a huge factor in determining when someone goes. They could have intentions to leave at the end of a year, but find they get better coverage by working a few days into the new year, that happens often.

          I guess the point is that people should have the flexibility to determine when they retire. As it North Shore has had some issues with rumors of Glendale pulling out of the district and so forth. You could have people that want to retire before there becomes more issues. The employee should have the right and the flexibilty to say when they want to go or stay. Perhaps providing a six month notice can make it difficult for the person to change their mind and it is a precedence that the union does not want to be set. It could be where the person gives a notice and has a month left and a family member goes to the hospital, it depends upon the mgmt, but they could be dinks and tell them they gave their notice, already hired a replacement etc.

          There could be a lot more going on here than what is known in the paper.
          The thoughts and opinions posted here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the thoughts and or views of city or dept affiliation.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Bones42 View Post
            Yup, definitely management issues.
            Issue here too Bones, is we don't know what the management refused to give up. In contract negotiations, there is give and take. If management wanted a six month notice for retirements, then what were they to provide in return? Perhaps the union asked for something like a non-layoff clause but management said no. We don't know all the issues involved and there have been many political games played that leave FF's jammed. It takes two sides to play the game.
            The thoughts and opinions posted here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the thoughts and or views of city or dept affiliation.


            • #7

              It also sounds to me like a group of managers “chiefs” that are way out of control with how they plan and spend. I’m guessing that a department the size of the north shore fire department www.nsfire.org should not have an issue if a few employees plan to retire.

              This is a prime example why GASBE 45 (http://www.gasb.org/project_pages/ga..._basic_q&a.pdf) should be put in place so management like in the North Shore are held to some sort of planning standard. Way too many chiefs have one foot out the door and don’t care what happens in the future and because of that they don’t set aside a reserve fund. If this happened in the “real world” the manager in charge of the budget would be fired. But I’m guessing because the North Shore is playing with tax dollars, noting will happen to anyone.

              This is very interesting but disturbing.


              • #8
                Found out a little more....

                I did a little more research on the North Shore Fire Department and found that before this budget issue came out, the department appears to have to regard to spending tax payers money without regard. On September 10th, 2008 the 2009 budget was approved for 12.2 million, up 2.9% from last year. I’m sure the department knew about several retirements before the budget was approved in September.
                The department promoted TWO new deputy chiefs in September of 2008.
                “Two new deputy fire chiefs assumed their new jobs on Sept. 8.

                The North Shore Fire Department Fire Commission named Andrew J. Harris and Robert C. Whitaker to permanently fill two deputy chief positions created after the departure of Charles Myers. Myers left to become chief of the Brookfield Fire Department in June. Both had been filling the jobs on an interim basis.

                With Myers' departure, NSFD Chief David Berousek recommended the creation of two deputy positions, which will allow him to train two people as his possible replacement. Berousek becomes eligible for full retirement in three years.

                Harris will handle the department operations while Whitaker will handle the training and administrative functions of the deputy chief. Berousek plans to swap their positions after a year or so in order to provide cross training.”

                Soooooo the Chief is paying two people to do the job of one just so he can “ train them to be his possible replacement” You have to be kidding me. This is probably how the department ran into $ issues.

                What do you guys think?


                • #9
                  "If the ladder goes up, the building goes down."


                  • #10
                    I know a couple guys from down there.

                    It's not the Chief or Deputy's, its the city council.

                    They submitted their budget which was reasonable, but the council chopped it down to nothing. In their last election, they got 3 council people that were on a mission to reduce the cost of operations and they started with the FD. The PD and the Shops are next. However, these same council people see no problem with spending almost a million dollars on a bike path and new park areas in the city.

                    For the most part, the guys there are supportive of the Chief. Sure, he has done some stupid stuff but doesn't every Chief??
                    Jason Knecht
                    Township Fire Dept., Inc.
                    Eau Claire, WI

                    IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
                    EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!


                    • #11
                      Apples and Oranges

                      The articles said the budget the department asked for in 2008 was approved in September. The web page shows that this is a conciliated department made up of 6 cities however the six cities do not have any conciliated PD or Department of public works.

                      I don’t think there is a comparison here. The council that dictates the FD is not the same as the council’s that deals with the PD and DPW within the other communities.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dickey View Post
                        its the city council.

                        They submitted their budget which was reasonable, but the council chopped it down to nothing. In their last election, they got 3 council people that were on a mission to reduce the cost of operations and they started with the FD. The PD and the Shops are next.
                        As mentioned already, North Shore is a consolidated dept and the governing body for the FD is comprised of a commission. No one city is really in charge and thus can't make demands of cutting services. The fees for each community is figured and that is what they pay for fire protection.

                        Not too long ago the City of Glendale (the largest community) threatened to pull out of the consolidation and look elsewhere for fire protection...(City of Milwaukee). Long story short, the NSFD isn't like most deptartments in the state and isn't subject to one city council, etc. Instead the politicians don't have too much of a say, unlike many other depts.

                        Also, only the FD is consolidated and not PD and public works, each individual community still has their own services for that.
                        The thoughts and opinions posted here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the thoughts and or views of city or dept affiliation.


                        • #13

                          I wonder why
                          Last edited by stcaf; 02-24-2010, 10:11 AM. Reason: ?


                          • #14
                            Going down hill.

                            Ex-fire chief accrues local disability while working in Texas
                            Berousek earns an estimated $73,000 tax-free in Wisconsin

                            Posted: July 25, 2010 |(135) Comments

                            North Shore Fire Chief David Berousek announced earlier this year that he was leaving his post and applying for duty disability because of a heart attack that he suffered last year.

                            In February, the state approved Berousek's application for disability pay, clearing the way for him to stay home while earning an estimated $73,000 in tax-free income a year because it was determined that he had suffered a work-related injury.

                            But the 54-year-old veteran administrator is not staying home.

                            Berousek is working for a consulting firm that conducted a study of Berousek's agency a few years back.

                            In that role, he is now back where he started - as chief for a fire department.

                            Only now he is doing this on a temporary basis for six communities just outside Houston.

                            "Welcome Interim Fire Chief Dave Berousek," says the Hedwig Village, Texas, website. "Chief Berousek was installed as the Interim Chief on Monday, June 21, 2010."

                            Under the arrangement, the Village Fire Department in Texas is paying Illinois-based McGrath Consulting Group $8,500 a month for Berousek to serve as interim chief and to help conduct a performance audit of the 50-person agency. The firm is overseeing the search for a new chief.

                            No Quarter was alerted to Berousek's arrangement in response to a recent column on the duty disability case of former Milwaukee cop Dave Orlowski. The ex-officer is paid more than $50,000 in tax-free income a year because he is considered "permanently and totally incapacitated for duty," yet the 54-year-old has now completed 10 triathlons in the past 1½ years.

                            Berousek, who lives in Cedarburg, said he doesn't expect his new job to last but for a few months - until a permanent chief is selected. News stories have estimated that this will occur in September or October. He said he doesn't want the permanent post.

                            Reached at his new fire department, Berousek said he was uniquely qualified for this short-term assignment because he helped oversee the North Shore Fire Department, which provides service to seven suburban communities just north of Milwaukee. He ran the department from its inception in 1995 to earlier this year.

                            He declined to say how much of the $8,500 monthly retainer he gets to keep.

                            "That's my business," said Berousek, who worked as a firefighter and administrator in Wisconsin for 20 years. "I'm no longer a public employee."

                            As for working full time just months after being declared disabled by the state, Berousek emphasized that he is in a low-stress job. He said Wisconsin law presumes that heart attacks are job-related in duty disability cases.

                            In his current post, he said, he is mainly reviewing and analyzing records and working at his desk. He is not making runs to fires or accident scenes, as was sometimes required in his North Shore job. His main task, he noted, is finishing an audit of the consolidated fire department and recommending improved management techniques.

                            "I wasn't going to put my health in jeopardy, nor am I trying to scam the system," Berousek said. "You know, I'm living."

                            To emphasize his point, he said he plans to tell the state all about this extra income at the end of the year. He also said he believes his disability pay will be offset, dollar for dollar, by any money he earns from the consulting firm.

                            Not quite.

                            Matt Stohr, spokesman for the state Department of Employee Trust Funds, said there is a complicated formula that reduces a disabled person's monthly payments by a fraction of their outside income. The offset increases from a third of outside earnings up to two-thirds of those funds, depending on how much a person earns while on duty disability.

                            According to the formula, for instance, Berousek's disability payments would be reduced by about $18,000 a year if he pulls in $50,000 from the consulting company this year. That would put his combined annual income at $105,000.

                            That's only about $7,000 more a year than what he made at the North Shore Fire Department, said Robert Whitaker, the current chief. The big difference is half of his current pay would not be taxable.

                            In addition, Stohr said, state rules require those on duty disability to report to the state within 30 days of receiving any outside pay, something that Berousek hasn't done. Just to make sure all outside income is reported, the state also requires disabled workers to provide all W-2 tax forms at the end of the year.

                            "It does happen where it's not reported in that 30 days," Stohr said.

                            Berousek said he was familiar with the consulting company because it is run by Tim McGrath, a retired Brookfield Fire Department chief. Berousek said he has been working for the firm for about a year.

                            McGrath conducted an analysis of the North Shore Fire Department in 2005, 10 years after it merged the seven previously separate departments. Whitaker, the current chief, said he couldn't immediately say how much the firm was paid, and Berousek said he was not responsible for the contract.

                            Asked if he plans to stay with the consulting company once his stint in Texas is completed, Berousek said, "Should there be something of interest, I will."

                            He emphasized that he had no interest in running another fire department, even though he was a finalist to head the Bothell Fire Department in Washington last fall, several months after his heart attack and before his retirement.



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