WMFR budget passes final vote

WMFR budget passes final vote
The West Manatee Fire Rescue District is ready to start the new fiscal year Oct. 1. - Kristin Swain | Sun

BRADENTON – The West Manatee Fire Rescue District has put its financial ducks in a row in time for the coming fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

WMFR commissioners met Sept. 7 for the district’s final public hearing on the proposed 2021-22 budget and to adopt a resolution certifying the 2021 fire assessment. No members of the public came forward to offer any comment on either item and commissioners passed both with a unanimous vote.

The $13,708,222 total budget includes $5,485,935 in total reserve funds, including impact fees, restricted reserves, assigned and unassigned reserves, $8,252,537 in total estimated revenue and $8,222,287 in appropriated expenses including all personnel services, operating expenses and capital projects.

The district’s new budget goes into effect at the start of the new fiscal year. Also going into effect on Oct. 1 is an amended contract with Chief Ben Rigney.

Rigney’s contract with the fire district was brought up for discussion during an August meeting where it was noted that a clause in the contract requires him to complete Executive Fire Officer training – the flagship training program of the National Fire Academy – before earning a raise. Prior to taking over the reins of the district from former Chief Tom Sousa in late 2018, Rigney was accepted into the elite training program. However, due to COVID-19 and a restructuring of the program that indefinitely shut it down, Rigney was only able to complete one of four sections.

During the Sept. 7 meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to accept an amendment to Rigney’s employment contract that removes the language requiring the EFO training to allow his raise to go into effect with the new fiscal year and adds two additional years to the original contract term of five years.

“Thank you for having faith in me over the past two years,” Rigney said, adding that he hopes to continue to serve the district for many years to come.

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