We need more transparency

Dear Editor:

In recent months there has been a great deal of discussion regarding proposed legislation, which would give the Isanti Area Joint Powers (Isanti Fire Department) taxing authority. It has been determined, after a March 27 meeting, that Senator Benson and Representative Daudt would no longer move this legislation forward.

The Joint Powers Agreements currently governing the Isanti Area Fire District should provide for representation and transparency, but does it?

The transparency of how our tax dollars are spent by the department gets grossly clouded over. Read the 2012 Fire District Annual Report. From 2009 to 2012, there has been a reduction of 12,353 fire fighter hours, solely due to the hiring of a full time fire fighter in 2010. Take $10.30 per hour, which is the rate paid to a fire fighter, the claimed savings is $127,235.90, add taxes of 9.5 percent, and other expenses, and now the total savings is $139,320.31.

This is a huge savings. What the report doesn’t tell you is that our full time fire fighter’s salary for 2013 will be $72,000 annual, plus a vehicle, a gas card and per diem. How much are we saving? The annual budget for 2012 was $464,690 (704 calls at $660 per call), plus $77,275 in grant money is $541,915, of which only 9 percent is paid in wages.

The amount paid in wages and the method used to calculate those hours is questionable also. The number of hours the firefighter actually gets paid for is the run hours and $5 per meeting attended.

Town board officers and Isanti council members and the mayor, take your 2012 IFD Annual Report and read pages 8 and 9 very carefully. The number of hours allegedly saved us is not 12,353, but in fact is 7574. 2010 is subtracted from 2009, 2011 is again subtracted from 2009, 2012 is correctly subtracted from the previous year.

Also how will reducing the average number of firefighters responding per call save us $37,261.66 annually? I can see it will save money, but where does the chief come up with quote, “Each firefighter response on average costs the district $14,097.22.” Where does that number come from?

Town board officers and Isanti council members, you are supposed to be the Joint Powers responsible for overseeing the IFD. Ask the hard questions. You are in charge of our tax dollars. Get some honest answers. Why are we allegedly saving so much money, yet our fire protection bill increases every year?

Dennis Kowalik