After almost two years of reduced staffing and station closings due to budget cuts, Higgins Fire District has been awarded a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The grant allowed the district to rehire hire the firefighters laid off as a result of budget cuts in 2012, and hire four firefighters to fill the remain vacancies. This will provide full-time staffing for one additional station.
While the grant will be an important benefit to the residents and business owners in the Higgins Fire District, it is not a permanent funding source. It will provide the fire district’s board of directors additional time to develop options for consistent funding. The two previous attempts to pass new funding measures failed, including Measure O, which fell short by less than 30 votes.
Like many other small fire departments struggling in this economy over the past few years, the Higgins Fire District’s budget was reduced by up to 32%, yet the demand for service has increased. The current fire department parcel fee of $25 per year was established in 1980 and remains unchanged. While the district has been very prudent with spending, the 34 year-old assessment falls significantly short in adequate funding.