The Buckskin and Parker Fire Departments are discussing consolidating their two districts. However, there are many issues that will have to be resolved first. One of them is Buckskin’s unfunded liability to the state’s Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.
According to records from the PSPRS, the Buckskin Fire Department has a funding ratio of 39 percent. This means they have 39 percent of the money needed to cover current and future expenses from the system. They currently contribute the equivalent of 49 percent of their employees’ salaries to the retirement system.
Buckskin has professional firefighters, which is why they are on the PSPRS. Parker is staffed with volunteers, which is why they are not on the PSPRS.
PSPRS Spokesman Christian Palmer said unfunded liabilities are something local departments will need to work out between themselves when two districts consolidate.
“That would be a matter of local control and decision-making,” Palmer said in an e-mail to the Pioneer. “By definition, a merger involves co-mingling separate entities and their assets and liabilities.”
Buckskin Fire Chief Troy Maloney said the PSPRS only applies to people who are in the program. He said consolidating the two districts will not add to lower, or eliminate their any of the districts’ liabilities.
Maloney said Parker runs almost as many calls in a year as Buckskin does, but they don’t have the financial resources Buckskin does.
“Parker’s finances are extremely low for all the calls they run,” Maloney said. He added Buckskin does a lot of things, like water rescues, more often than Parker does.
For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the Buckskin Fire District had an assessed value of $63.5 million with a tax levy of $1.9 million. The Parker Fire District had an assessed value of $22.9 million and a tax levy of $580,651. Of the fire districts in the county, only Bouse and McMullen Valley had lower tax levies.
“I can tell you Parker will not be subsidizing Buckskin,” Maloney said. “Consolidation will benefit Parker more than Buckskin, but it comes at a cost.”
If the districts consolidate, Maloney said Buckskin will be handling two-thirds of the overhead costs, as well as the costs of management and technology. He said Parker couldn’t handle paying for half the overheard.
Maloney emphasized they are still in the preliminary, fact-finding portion of the consolidation process.
“We want to make sure its future finances are sustainable,” Maloney said. “This will be a fact-based decision. If it doesn’t work for both sides, we won’t do it.”
If people have questions regarding the consolidation process, Maloney said they should call him at the Buckskin Fire Department at 928-667-3321.