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Fire and Police departments request budget increases

By Aldrich M. Tan

April 13, 2006

The San Francisco Police Department and Fire Department presented their policy objectives at Tuesday's Budget and Finance Committee and requested additional funding to their provided budgets for the next fiscal year.

The fire department has increased its revenue and decreased expenditures, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. The department has saved over $3.8 mil. by cutting of work compensation costs.

The fire department is also benefiting from its role as the primary emergency medical service provider, Hayes-White said. It began a reconfiguration of EMS program by hiring 24 functioning paramedics. Paramedics also have a shorter training time.

"Basically, we're saving money," Hayes-White said.

The fire department also plans to upgrade its EMS technology, Hayes-White said. It is in the process of adopting electronic devices will improve data collection and allow paramedics to quickly bring up a patient's records electronically.

"We feel there is a value to embracing new technology in our department," White said.

Hayes-White said the department's challenge is to implement Proposition F, which calls for the department to end unit brownouts, the practice of temporarily closing five fire stations on a rotating basis to save labor costs.

"The brownouts happened during difficult economic times," Hayes-White said. "We're projecting that it is going to cost $7.5 mil. which is not something that we can off-set in our department."

Prop. F also calls for the fire department to return to the mandated minimum staffing to run all the firehouses, White said. A projected 75 firefighters will be retiring, but the fire department projects it will be hiring and training 72 new hires, including paramedics.

Police chief Heather Fong proposed an increased budget of $381 mil. to the police department's budget. The current department for next year is $352 mil.

The department is requesting increased funds to help improve technology, Fong said. It requested for a supplemental allocation of $200,000 for an independent evaluation of the department's current systems. The department is still largely operating on Windows 95 system and e-mail is limited to certain departments.

"Our department is still stuck in the previous century when it comes to technology," Fong said. "

The increased funding will help the department replace retiring officers, Fong said. 900 police officers will become eligible for retirement in the next nine years.

Fong proposed an increase of 5 classes of 50 officers for the fiscal year, considering the time period that it takes to train the officers. The proposed five classes will cost approximately $12.5 mil.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty said he would be more interested in seeing a proposal of seven to eight classes of police officers.

"I personally want the opportunity to vote for an ordinance that would put the police at full staffing," Dufty said. "The lack of officers hinders the department's ability to respond to crime and the public's desire for safer streets and less vehicle robberies means a need for more visible police presence."




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