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In order to maximize the efficiency of fire department operations, it is important to consider the role of budgetary process in the optimization of organizational operations. Inadequate budget planning is likely to result in serious monetary shortfalls. Budget planning should consider the needs of the community and maximize the use of limited resources to enhance the quality and accessibility of fire departments’ services. In this paper, budgetary process is discussed in relation to Buda Fire Department operations and its ability to meet the needs of the community.
Fire Department Overview and Community Needs
Buda Fire Department is a relatively small fire department located 15 miles south of Austin, Texas, which provides fire extinguishing and emergency services to a 75 square mile area (History. Heritage. Trust., n.d., par. 1). Currently, the department consists of three fire stations: the first station houses administration, while the second and third stations are staffed 24 hours a day with career firefighters operating fire engines and ambulances. The department is planning to open new stations in the area. There are 41 people working at Buda Fire Department, 5 of which are in the administrative positions (Our People, Our Pride, n.d.). The department is challenged with the task to meet the diverse needs of the area with the following safety concerns:
- large hay fields;
- jet fuel plant near city limits;
- several large-scale factories with explosives on site.
The area is also susceptible to regular natural disasters, such as flooding. In order to meet the needs of the community, the department has to focus on the following areas of responsibility: fiscal management, personnel management, and productivity management (Cote, 2003, p. 113). Fiscal management is mainly occupied with the budget process, or managing financial systems in order to improve the allocation and usage of limited financial resources (Fiscal Management, n.d., par. 1). It should be noted that fire department management involvement into fiscal management depends on the local government, which can provide its own instructions regarding budget planning (Cote, 2003, p. 114).
The Budget Process
The budget process typically starts at the beginning of a calendar year with the budget formulation. The budget is generally created for one fiscal year. The budget process should begin with the evaluation of current budget in the light of the new strategic objectives. A strategic plan should outline these objectives and the way it is going to achieve its mission. Buda Fire Department is planning to expand the number of stations under operations, which means that the budget has to be adjusted according to the projections of expenses associated with the expansion. The budget consists of fixed and variable costs.
Fixed costs are costs associated with personnel and facility expenses and other costs that do not change over the year (Lotich, 2014, par. 5). The major part of fire department fixed costs is the personnel costs, which typically account for between 85 and 90% of the entire budget (Cote, 2003, p. 113). As such, it can be estimated that adding one new station will almost double the budget requirements by increasing fixed. Variable costs are changing costs such as overtime pay and fire apparatus costs (Lotich, 2014, par. 6).
These costs will also increase in line with fixed costs if the department is expanded. During the budget process, it is important to consider apparatus replacement costs. In addition to the yearly budget, a long-term projection should be developed to estimate “capital replacement costs for items such as staff vehicles, fire apparatus […] and other major pieces of equipment” (Cote, 2003, p. 114).
With the projections at hand, once the current budget is reviewed a draft budget is to be compiled for the following year and submitted by a specified time to a finance committee (Cote, 2003, p. 114). Once the draft is finished and reviewed by the budget office, the authority having the jurisdiction, the department head is asked to specify specific items. The department’s chief can motivate the decision to expand to open new stations using the following Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives:
Applicable Life Safety Initiatives
“Enhance the personal and organizational accountability for health and safety throughout the fire service” (16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, n.d.). The department is operating in a hazardous area with several threats to population health and safety. The expansion is justified due to the fact that the department has to provide fire sustaining and emergency medical services across a large area with several threats. In addition, certain threats, such as jet fuel plant and large-scale factories with explosives, pose unique operational challenges.
- “Utilize available technology wherever it can produce higher levels of health and safety” (16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, n.d.). Fire detection and suppression equipment should be repaired and replaced constantly to ensure smooth operations.
Once the budget is reviewed by the budget office, it is approved by the city administration and is enacted at the beginning of the new fiscal year (Cote, 2003, p. 114).
The main cause of monetary shortfalls is the improper management of available resources. Fire department administration should use budgetary process to realistically estimate expenditures and improve the efficiency of fire department operations.
16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. (n.d.). Web.
Cote, A. (2003). Organizing for Fire and Rescue Services. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
History. Heritage. Trust. (n.d.). Web.
Lotich, P. (2014). 10 Steps to Developing and Managing a Budget. Web.
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Our People, Our Pride. (n.d.). Web.