EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe Federal Way Fire Department performed a major update to its strategic plan during 1998. A brief summary of this document is identified below. If you would like to get a copy of the full plan, please contact us. This strategic plan update focuses on identifying the issues that the Department needs to address over the next five years. In this planning process, we updated our Mission, our Vision and the Guiding Principles by which our dedicated employees operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We also identified Key Strategies and, importantly, Measurements of those strategies.
The Key Strategies for the Department for the next five years are as follows:
- A Well-Trained, Equipped and Staffed Work Force Serving With Pride
- Continual Improvement of the Quality of Services Provided
- Provision Of A Broad Base Of Emergency Services That Address Risk To Life And Property
- An Efficient and Effective Emergency Medical System
- A Strong and Cooperative Working Relationship With Labor That Focuses on Serving the Community
- Effectiveness in Preventing Fire
- Fiscal Responsibility That Includes Strong Cost Controls and Equitable Funding Mechanisms
- A Strong Sense of Community Partnership with Public and Private Organizations
- Minimum Staffing Of 2 Persons On Engine Companies – The department currently has three stations that staff only two firefighters on the engine. Two firefighters, even when joined by a Battalion Chief, cannot make an interior attack at a fire scene.
Resolution: We have identified a financial plan to hire additional firefighter/EMT’s over a four-year period to provide a minimum staffing of 3 firefighters on every engine.
- Emergency Medical Services (EMS) – Increasing Response Times, Continual Growth, Lack Of Ability To Track Quality Of Care, Lack Of A Dedicated Aid Car – Response times have been increasing due to growth in call volumes, traffic congestion and simultaneous incidents.
Engine companies are experiencing longer response times due to simultaneous incidents and calls for service while doing inspections, training, hydrants, etc.
EMS represents approximately 70% of our responses and the major source of growth in call volumes. Despite this, the EMS program is currently managed as an extra duty for one Shift Battalion Chief (B/C). The EMS Shift B/C is available to the other two shifts only on a limited basis.
Another problem in EMS is that we lack the ability to access data for doing follow-up, prevention and quality-of-care issues.
Resolution: We have identified a financial plan to hire additional firefighter/EMT’s to staff a dedicated aid car in the district. This aid car will provide response capability during simultaneous events when the engine is out on a call (and vice-versa), in training, hydrant inspections, etc. The FWFD will evaluate increasing the number of patients transported to local hospitals to foster better communication and feedback from physicians on the quality of patient care we deliver in the field. A Medical Service Officer (MSO) position has been developed to provide close management of the EMS program. To improve community health and reduce the growth in EMS call volumes, data systems will be developed to provide information on types, quantities and locations of injuries so prevention programs can be developed.
- Annexation Of Sections Of The District To Adjacent Cities – When all of the potential annexation areas for Auburn, Des Moines and Kent become annexed to those cities, the FWFD will experience a significant reduction in income. This threatens our ability to provide services to the remainder of the district.
Resolution: We have identified a financial contingency plan to accommodate the loss of income due to annexation by adjacent cities. Annexations by Des Moines were resolved through contracts for services. The potential annexation area for Auburn will have an impact of an estimated $400,000 per year. If annexations by Auburn occur, station 5 could be staffed at two persons.
FUNDING RECOMMENDATIONSA number of funding options were identified in the plan, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. As with most issues based upon property tax measures, none of the models provide a high degree of certainty, and clearly, funding this plan will be difficult given the tax base within the District. The funding plan that has been adopted is a layered combination of the various options. The primary funding would be through growth in assessed valuation that is in excess of inflation. This model would require the Department to increase property taxes at 6% from 2000 through 2003. Taxes should move towards alignment with inflation after that time. Growth in King County was 6.7 % for 1998, although growth within Federal Way Fire Department boundaries for 1998 was only 3.6%. It is unknown whether this is due to a lag in property value improvements in the Federal Way area that will "catch up" in subsequent years or whether properties in the Federal Way area will simply not be highly valued over the long term.
Although the high assessed valuation growth model assumes that growth in assessed valuation will outpace inflation by 2.5% each year over the next four years, growth need not be stable throughout these years. Growth in excess of the required amount in one year could be used to cover growth that is less than the required amount in another year.
This approach is preferred for the following reasons:
- This option allows for a phased in approach over five years, resulting in minimal annual tax increases. By 2003 when the plan is fully implemented, this would result in an annual impact of $27 for a home valued at $150,000.
- This does not require an expensive and time-consuming ballot issue.
- This most closely aligns with current Department strategies regarding taxes and growth.
- This provides the best stability in providing a consistent level of service.
- If growth is adequate, this option meets the criteria of providing funding to resolve all three issues within five years.
As noted earlier, high growth in assessed valuation may not occur at the levels necessary to fund the plan. The second evaluation criteria noted that new sources of funding should be identified if the growth in assessed valuation is not adequate to fund the plan. The following contingencies have been identified:
Capital Funding: Capital equipment is currently funded out of reserves that are set aside from the existing fire department levy. This has resulted in elimination of any capital bonds as shown below:
Transport Fees: If, during this five-year period, the assumptions do not materialize (growth is inadequate), the department would evaluate utilizing patient transport fees as a method of making up for a lack of available tax dollars. While patient transport fees fiscally make sense in that they are collecting from a pre-paid health benefit for the majority of patients, there will be some difficulty in educating patients as to the reason that the FWFD is charging a fee for this service. There are no other fire departments in King County that currently charge for patient transport although Pierce County and Snohomish County fire departments do charge a transport fee.
Voter-approved Funding: If growth in Federal Way is so low that it will not fund this plan, even with the augmentation of transport fees and/or capital bonds, additional voter-approved funding would be the remaining option. This concept would need to be thoroughly evaluated, which would probably require some professional assistance in the area of community surveys and research on the subject. If an excess levy were chosen, it is important that the community understand that approval of an excess levy is an ongoing process since an excess levy must be approved each and every year. Once passed, if the levy should fail in future years, the plan would be in serious jeopardy. A levy failure would also bring additional expenses associated with reducing the workforce. Likewise, a change to a Service Benefit Charge would require extensive evaluation and public education. While this system provides stability of a six-year approval, it is a complex and somewhat confusing matter to place before the voters. Legislation in 1998 improved the Service Charge system such that, in the event of a failure to renew the Service Charges, property taxes could be returned to approximate the $1.50/1,000 levy rate that was in effect prior to the implementation of Service Charges.
Each of these contingency options could be utilized and/or combined depending upon the level of funding required. For example, if the plan funding were inadequate by less than $300,000, the transport fees or capital funding options could be utilized. A shortfall of $600,000 could be resolved by a combination of transport fees and capital funding. A shortfall of greater than $600,000 would require a voter-approved solution. This solution would probably negate the use of capital funds since this would require voter approval on additional operating funds and on capital bonds, which would simply increase election costs.
This funding model provides for staffing increases that would be phased in within a 5 year period, resulting in a final staffing of 22 firefighters on duty. This represents staffing of 3 firefighters on all 6 engine companies, a dedicated aid car, a ladder truck/aid car company and a second Training Officer.