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Reader says No question having one of the top eleven Fire Departments in NJ is a great benefit – but it is a luxury?

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Reader says No question having one of the top eleven Fire Departments in NJ is a great benefit – but it is a luxury?

No question having one of the top eleven Fire Departments in NJ is a great benefit – but it is a luxury. Only 4 municipalities in Bergen County have career fire suppression depts. Less than 3% of the total incident calls between 2010-12 were fires vs. +35% for rescue & emergency service calls, and 22% for alarm activations. The operating cost is reasonable and helps to make Ridgewood an attractive community to live in, no question. But the operating budget ignores the long-term cost for new equipment & buildings, as well as annual salary, step wage and longevity increases well in excess of both private sector wage growth and inflation for the last 15 years. Add in very generous defined benefit pension & healthcare benefits for life vs. an average retirement age of 52, and the fixed, long-term costs to taxpayers escalate rapidly. Is it redundant to have 27 EMTs at RFD when Valley’s EMS department has 80 staff members including Paramedics, Registered Nurses and EMTs providing 24/7/365 paramedic services including Advanced Life Support (ALS) units ? Does it make sense to have a three person crew on duty 24 hours a day at Engine 31 in response to resident concerns about serious fires in the mid 1940s ? This blog post is about living within our means, so we need to ask these questions of all taxpayer funded entities, including the BoE.

Titleist 910 Metalwood Family

29 thoughts on “Reader says No question having one of the top eleven Fire Departments in NJ is a great benefit – but it is a luxury?

  1. Its one of the nicer things about Ridgewood.
    I’m tired of the new residents bitching about the nice things here, like the Paid Professional Firefighters, and rear yard trash pickup.
    They come here, raise our taxes with these foolish school budgets, million dollar artificial turf sports fields, 10 million dollar horse farms (turned into sports fields) then beat feet out of town after their last kid graduates RHS, leaving the rest of us to foot the tab.
    If you want to truly save tax dollars, reduce the school budget.
    A good first start is larger class sizes, and shift medical ‘benefits’ to a bare-bones plan.

  2. Whether it’s local, State, or Federal. We all pretty much know that cuts have to be made. The problem is that no-one is prepared to accept any cut that impacts them. Everyone has an opinion of where else to cut.

  3. This actually raises a good question about the proposed developments in town. Will the new 4 or 5 story buildings necessitate the purchase of additional equipment? Will we need more firefighters?

  4. I assume the writer will be the first in line to become a volunteer firefighter…right? Because a volunteer department is the only other option. What the writer left out is that some municipalities now have paid firefighters during the day in an otherwise volunteer department because they can’t get enough volunteers. Oh, by the way is the Valley EMS department going to provide their services for free? They will not.

  5. The writer stated…..But the operating budget ignores the long-term cost for new equipment & buildings…..

    Tell me exactly how having a volunteer dept. will do away with the long-term cost for new equipment & buildings? I would be interested in hearing that explained.

  6. yes we do have a great fire dept, and it should be. look at what it coast to have that. just under five million . a lot of money.


  7. Anonymous:

    yes we do have a great fire dept, and it should be. look at what it coast to have that. just under five million . a lot of money.

    5m? BFD they save lives!
    School budget? 90 million?
    Give me a break.

  8. Having an part paid and part volunteer (called combination Department) the Ridgewood Fire Department is hardly a luxury. There are 3 communities in Bergen County, including Ridgewood, that have a combination department. The Ridgewood Fire Department provides the most cost effective Fire Service by having a career staff backed up by a volunteer staff.

    Because the Ridgewood Fire Dept. has career Fire Inspectors the Village has always had a very low incidence of fires, usually less than 3% of the total incident calls between 2010-2012.

    For the 35% of the calls that involve life saving rescues or emergency medical calls, where time is the difference between life and death, the career staff has an average response time of 2 to 4 minutes. A volunteer only staff would take 3 to 4 minutes just to respond to the Fire Station and then take another 4 to 5 minutes to reach the person in need of immediate care. A total of 8 minutes or more is not acceptable in fire or medical situations.

    The operating cost is not only reasonable for the Fire Dept. but for most residents the cost for Fire Service is a deductible item on their Income Tax Return (property taxes) at the same rate that their tax rate is for their Federal 1040, which reduces the cost of the service by up to 35%, while at the same time the Fire Dept career and volunteer staffing provides an ISO rating of 2 which is responsible for the low fire insurance rates residents and commercial property owners enjoy.

    Someone said “But the operating budget ignores the long-term cost for new equipment & buildings…..” This is just one example of how uninformed this person is, the cost for buildings, training, Firefighter protective gear, injury insurance, fuel, Apparatus and uniforms, to name just a few things, are all part of any department career or volunteer.

    The same person talks about a very generous defined benefit pension & healthcare benefits for life for police and firefighters. The same could be said about the employees of the BOE, yet this individual has yet to examine the 90 Million dollar BOE budget the same way they focus on the 5 Million Fire Dept. Budget which makes me wonder……

  9. thats the problem you f d workers are always on a break.


  10. Anonymous:

    Tell me exactly how having a volunteer dept. will do away with the long-term cost for new equipment & buildings? I would be interested in hearing that explained.

    That’s not what was written – the cost of new equipment & buildings, step wages & longetivity pay increases + pensions & helathcare are not included in the operating cost figure, so the numbers given fo the cost per household/commercial business are misleading… no surpise there’s every reason under the sun why taxpayers shouldn’t question anything !

  11. 5m? RFD they save lives!School budget? 90 million?Give me a break.

    You imply that spending money to give kids a good start in life is a waste. Saving a life may be important, but developing good learning habits, a lifelong love of knowledge, and helping young people become productive, responsible citizens is priceless. That’s why Ridgewood residents pay 66% of their property taxes for schools.

  12. The same could be said about the employees of the BOE, yet this individual has yet to examine the 90 Million dollar BOE budget the same way they focus on the 5 Million Fire Dept. Budget which makes me wonder……

    #8, you really do like to throw dust the air, don’t you ? You’re not comparing apples to apples. The RFD has 42 employees. They have two locations, one of which is only staffed by three people. Compare this to the BoE, which employs 440 teachers, plus administrators, and support staff at 10 schools (one million square feet of buildings, not including grounds and sports fields). They have 6,000 students going through their doors every day, with 19 AP courses, 5 languages taught, 28 HS varsity sports programs, and 100+ activities. According to the 2013 US News & World Report High School Rankings, RHS ranked # 11 in NJ out of 395 schools, # 2 excluding specialty schools, and # 188 in the Nation out of 21,035 schools, in the Top 1%. All of this costs us $86mn in local tax levy, or about $14,345/student.

  13. Number 10 said,

    “….. the cost of new equipment & buildings, step wages & longetivity pay increases + pensions & helathcare are not included in the operating cost figure, so the numbers given fo the cost per household/commercial business are misleading….”

    The costs for new firefighting equipment and building maintenance is part of the Fire Dept. Capital budget. Salaries, including step increases & longevity pay increases, pension costs & healthcare coverage for employees are all contained in the operating budget.

    Question all you like number 10, you are entitled to your opinion, however you should not be making up FALSE facts to support your opinion.

  14. Number 12

    You really do like mislead and lie, don’t you ? In case you hadn’t noticed my tax dollars pay for both the BOE and Fire Department, so yes I am comparing apples to apples.

    FACT: The RFD has 39 Firefighters, 2 civilian secretaries and 4 part-time Fire Inspectors. What you did get correct is they have two locations, one of which is staffed by 3 Firefighters.

    Compare this to the BOE, which employs 440 teachers! Do we really need that many teachers? Has anyone done a study on the efficiency of the Schools similar to the 2 studies that have been conducted on the Fire Department, one by Technical Fire Services in 1996 and the other by Matrix Consulting in 2006? Both of those studies praised the efficiency of the Fire Department and recommended the current staffing (combination career & volunteer) be continued with some minor recommendations.

    How many administrators, and support staff do we need at the 10 schools? Has a study ever been done to examine the efficiency of that staff? Do we really need 19 AP courses & 5 languages taught, 28 HS varsity sports programs, and 100+ activities, and where is the study about all of those programs and their efficiencies? .

    Ok so the 2013 US News & World Report High School Rankings indicate, RHS ranked # 11 in NJ out of 395 schools, # 2 excluding specialty schools, and # 188 in the Nation out of 21,035 schools, in the Top 1%. Do we need to be one of the top schools in the country? You keep complaining about us having the “highest Property Taxes in the Country” Yet not once has the BOE been the subject of a study but that is ok with you apparently.


  15. Anonymous:

    you are entitled to your opinion, however you should not be making up FALSE facts to support your opinion.

    so the future pension & healthcare coverage costs for employees are all contained in the operating budget ? Really ? Want to retract your statement and admit you are wrong #13 ?
    You are entitled to your opinion, however you should not be making up FALSE facts to support your opinion.

  16. Number #15,

    Exactly where in your statement at Number 10 does the word FUTURE appear? I can’t find it!

    And while you are at it, please tell me where in my comment (number 13) does the word FUTURE appear?

    I will love hearing this spin! Time to admit you are WRONG 15!

  17. Clearly you have no idea what you are talking about #16, why would we be paying pensions to active employees ? Or do we have “double dippers” on the active staff ? Admit your statement was factually incorrect please. The capital budget, and pension & healthcare costs are not included in the operating budget number used to caluclate the cost per household/commercial business.


  18. Anonymous:

    5m? RFD they save lives!School budget? 90 million?Give me a break.

    You imply that spending money to give kids a good start in life is a waste. Saving a life may be important, but developing good learning habits, a lifelong love of knowledge, and helping young people become productive, responsible citizens is priceless. That’s why Ridgewood residents pay 66% of their property taxes for schools.

    The BOE is grossly overstaffed.
    The class sizes should be increased.
    Administrator positions should be eliminated.
    The reason the residents pay that gross amount in taxes is that the newbies that move here vote yes on every school budget then bail out when the last child graduates RHS sticking the rest of us with the tab.

  19. #15 how about the future pension & healthcare coverage costs for BOE employees? You know, all those 440 teachers, plus administrators, and support staff at 10 schools, are their future pension & healthcare coverage costs all contained in the annual BOE operating and capital budgets?


  20. Anonymous:

    Do we need to be one of the top schools in the country? You keep complaining about us having the “highest Property Taxes in the Country” Yet not once has the BOE been the subject of a study but that is ok with you apparently.

    #14, is this a rhetorical question ? Of course we want the best public schools in the country. Why else would we pay some of the highest property taxes in the country ? Why are you so critical of the BoE ? Talk to them if you have an issue, or move if you don’t like your taxes paying for their budget ! I said 42 employees and you said 41, that’s due to one retirement in Dec 2012 and you’re saying I’m a liar ? Classic mudslinging to discredit someone else….

  21. Well, Well, Well number 19, if we should have the best public schools in the country because we pay some of the highest property taxes in the country why shouldn’t we also have the best police & fire departments in the country for just that very same reason?

    Why are you so critical of police and firefighters? Talk to them if you have an issue, or move if you don’t like your taxes paying for their budgets !

  22. if we should have the best public schools in the country because we pay some of the highest property taxes in the country why shouldn’t we also have the best police & fire departments in the country for just that very same reason?

    We do. RFD is in the top eleven in the state and VoR is 5th safest municipality in the country according to one survey. What’s your point ?

  23. Number 17 said,

    Clearly you have no idea what you are talking about #16, why would we be paying pensions to active employees ? Or do we have “double dippers” on the active staff ? Admit your statement was factually incorrect please. The capital budget, and pension & healthcare costs are not included in the operating budget number used to caluclate the cost per household/commercial business.

    ANSWER: We are NOT paying pensions to active employees. We are making contributions toward their pensions, you know just like the FICA that is taken out of your paycheck for Social Security.

    As far as I know there are no double dippers on the FD.

    You are incorrect about the pension and health care costs, they ARE included in the police and fire operating budgets.

    And the capital budget is included in the annual costs for the Village under the category of “Debt Service Capital Improvements” on page 2 of the Ridgewood Budget Newsletter.

    So actually I do know what I am talking about……..


  24. Anonymous:

    As far as I know there are no double dippers on the FD.
    You are incorrect about the pension and health care costs, they ARE included in the police and fire operating budgets.

    Okay #23, we’re talking about two different things. The cost of future healthcare and pension benefits is not in the operating budget. Healthcare is “pay-as-you-go” so as we have more retirees getting older we’ll have more healthcare costs. If the NJ pension fund doesn’t earn 7.95% on its assets, taxpayers make up the difference, and that’s not adjusted for inflation. Those costs are not in the operating budget, and neither is our mandated annual contribution to the PFRS pension fund. It would help if taxpayers knew what the total current + future costs were given it looks to be about $100bn just for pensions & healthcare for the state of NJ overall.

  25. #25, is your reply an admission that you were wrong? It sure doesn’t look like one!

    Why didn’t you use the word FUTURE in your previous comments? Were you intentionally trying to mislead everyone?

    The FUTURE cost for health care and pensions is an entirely different subject.


  26. Anonymous:


    The BOE is grossly overstaffed.The class sizes should be increased.Administrator positions should be eliminated.

    You should run for the Council on this platform #18, go for it !

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. We need a majority on the BOE willing to draw a line in the sand and force the union to make concessions.

  27. #22 said,

    We do. RFD is in the top eleven in the state and VoR is 5th safest municipality in the country according to one survey. What’s your point ?

    Then what are you complaining about? We have the highest taxes that give us the best schools, public safety, DPW and other municipal service provided by municipal employees. You get what you pay for……

  28. Does anyone know what town has the top FD and what town has the top PD in the country ? If so, how much do residents there pay in municipal RE taxes ? These are interesting facts that would add to the general conversation of this topic.

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