A few thoughts on how the state budget shortfall relates to firefighting, fire resource budgets, equipment and staffing. An overview of the looming budget crisis can be read here in the also failing Los Angeles Times.
If you work for or have ever worked for a state or county government you come to expect the annual budget warnings. Generally your supervisor pops out a memo during a staff meeting that reads “10% staff reductions from all department heads”. If you are in the fire suppression or public safety, (law enforcement, corrections) area you know you won’t lose your job but the threat will hang over you until the budget is signed.
I’m not so sure jobs won’t be on the line this time. This is not a run of the mill budget alarm. This budget crisis in firefighter parlance could be called “The Big One”.
Staffing may actually be affected. There is fat, we like to think there isn’t but there is plenty of fat. One example, Cal Fire Swanton station in Santa Cruz County near Davenport. The very small seaside community of Davenport is protected by Santa Cruz County Fire. Swanton is empty half the year and the other half of the year staffed by a rotation of two captains, a relief captain or engineer and seasonal firefighters.
The community of Bonny Doon just up the road has been trying to get their own fire district for years. Close Swanton, sell the land and park the CalFire crew from Swanton at the Bonny Doon school for the summer months. Simplistic I know but if the state is facing a “financial Armageddon” some outside the box thinking is required.
I’m not picking on Swanton there are dozens of remote fire stations throughout the state that are redundant or cross served by other jurisdictions.
The biggest fat in the state is in corrections. Correctional officers make a great living, some line officers make $100,000 + per year (a bargain compared to some state averages) but the high prison population is the real cost.
Fit some of these non violent convicts with ankle bracelets and send them home. I’m as law and order as anyone but if the state is hinting at bankruptcy then let’s get serious. It costs over $30,000 per year to house and feed an inmate in California. Give them food stamps and send them home.
Caltrans, I really do want the new bridge near my home built but I will be OK without it. Let Obama’s new BBC (bridge builder corps) build it. Just fix the potholes and scrape graffiti off the freeway signs.
University of California System, State University System, Community Colleges System, more online offerings. Every college has it’s own police force….team with local police.
California Department of Education? Education is a local issue and the people administering local schools would be there without you. Take the entire department down and put those people to work in classrooms or after school programs.