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Fox Point weighs in on NSFD funding formula

No vote, but Village Board supportive

Nov. 13, 2013

Fox Point — Village President Michael West on Tuesday was given the informal support of the Village Board on his intent to approve a proposed fire department funding formula.

West, along with representatives from the other six North Shore Fire Department member communities, meet next Tuesday at Shorewood Village Hall to vote on the proposal. In the meantime, River Hills, whose President Bob Brunner has been the one NSFD board member to openly oppose the proposal, meets Friday to deliberate and may call a vote.

The proposed formula, which determines the share of the total NSFD budget each community pays, would take effect in 2016 and replace a three-year formula set by the NSFD board in 2012. With the help of third-party mediator Public Policy Forum, officials and administrators from the member communities arrived at the new formula after 10 months of consideration.

And though policy forum President Rob Henken has said the resulting formula proposal gained consensus among city and village administrators, the same cannot be said of elected officials. In mid-October River Hills' Brunner called the proposal a "bailout" for Glendale and threatened to veto the new formula if a vote is called at the coming meeting. In response, Glendale Mayor Jerome Tepper said he would advise Glendale to separate from NSFD in 2016 if the proposed formula is defeated.

Last week Whitefish Bay Village President Julie Siegel called a vote on the matter at the Bay board, receiving a unanimous backing of her plan to approve the proposal.

After a brief presentation on the technical aspects of the proposal, West lauded the formula for the way it takes politics out of fire department funding. In the past, West said, NSFD board members were more likely to bargain among each other over their community's individual share of the fire department budget than let a formula establish their share for them.

"Any community that was adversely effected would never vote (for proposals in the past)," West said. "(The proposed formula) is policy based."

West added of the board's acceptance in 2012 of the current, three-year formula, which locked Fox Point's share of the fire department higher than it would have been under the department's original funding agreement from 1995: "This board, in my opinion, had the toughest decision of the seven communities, because of the data that was before us."

Though West didn't go so far as to call a vote of his own Tuesday evening, he did receive the vocal support of several village trustees for his intent to vote "yes" on the proposal next week.

"Getting away from that (formula) freeze is a very important accomplishment," Trustee Eric Fonstad said.

Added Ttrustee Douglas H. Frazer: "It's a huge improvement."

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