Bracing for potential tough financial times ahead, the board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, during a special Feb. 24 meeting, unanimously approved six resolutions aimed at slowing spending and sending a message to the public.
The resolutions ranged from putting the planned acquisition of real property on hold to eliminating spending "for the comfort of the board, such as food at meetings."
They also eliminated the option of using reserves for operational costs this fiscal year, and directed staff to propose means to involve the public and employees of the district "in setting priorities for reductions in services."
Board President Bart Spencer said the resolutions "emanated out of the study sessions we had earlier this year about how we could be proactive about controlling costs." The series of resolutions cited "an extremely precarious fiscal state at present and for the foreseeable future" -- locally, nationally and worldwide.
Board member Peter Carpenter submitted a report to the board indicating that in 2010, the district's revenue could drop by $275,000 to $1.2 million because of the increase in the number of homes being reassessed, and the growing number of foreclosures and pre-foreclosures being reported in the area served by the district – Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto, and nearby incorporated areas.
About 92 percent of the district's revenue comes from property taxes.
Mr. Spencer said that some of the approved measures, such as eliminating meals for the board, "aren't going to be a substantial impact … but it shows we're concerned about where we are financially, and we're committed to trying to be conservative in our spending."
The resolution placing acquisitions on hold made official a determination the board arrived at several months ago, Mr. Spencer said. The board had been moving ahead with a long-term plan to upgrade stations, and had purchased property on Middlefield Road to house administrative staff, now housed in the main fire station on Middlefield; property in downtown Menlo Park, adjacent to the Oak Grove Avenue station, to expand and renovate that station; and property in East Palo Alto to expand Station 2.
The board was poised to buy more property adjacent to the Middlefield station from St. Patrick's Seminary, but abandoned the plan late last year because of growing concerns about the economy, Mr. Carpenter said.
Mr. Spencer said the board has also slowed down the district's planned purchases for apparatus replacement in light of the financial concerns.