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.