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Firefighters answer the call to reduce city bugdet
A Manteca firefighter gets ready to take a recent Citizens Fire Academy participant up in the 100-foot aerial platform truck. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca is the leader when it comes to similar-sized regional cities in terms of maintaining low fire service costs.

Manteca with 67,750 residents as of the start of 2008 has 42 firefighters with front-line duties giving the city 0.62 firefighters per 1,000 residents.  Staffing costs covering salary and benefits are by far the largest component of fire services expenses.

The stats for the other cities in ascending order of staffing are as follows:

•Turlock with 69,321 residents has 0.72 firefighters per 1,000 residents.

•Woodland with 56,000 residents has 0.83 firefighters per 1,000 residents.

•Livermore/Pleasanton with 147,000 residents between the two cities has 0.89 firefighters per 1,000 residents.

•Lodi with 61,301 residents has 0.95 firefighters per 1,000 residents.

•Folsom with 65,000 residents has 1.15 firefighters per 1,000 residents.

The fire department working closely with the Manteca Firefighters Association has reduced cost significantly over the past year.

Among the changes that have saved well in excess of $600,000 are as follows:

•A suspension of the mandatory staffing of three firefighters per engine and truck company per shift that was spelled out in a previous contract to one that would allow putting one of four 3-man fire suppression units out of service when needed. Currently what happens is the rescue squad sits idle when a firefighter is on vacation to keep engine and truck companies fully staffed. Under the agreement with the firefighters, the city would then park an engine company of staffing per shift dropped to 11 firefighters citywide. That hasn’t happened so far because the MFA agreed to make sure that no more than one firefighter was on vacation at any given time. The end result has been significant savings in overtime that has saved so far in excess of $300,000.

•Streamlining of the command structure and replacing the fire marshal with a civilian applicant to save money.

•Agreeing to furlough days plus forgoing two back-to-back annual pay raises as well as paying in toward benefits.

The changes were made to help bridge an $11.8 million budget deficit this current fiscal year and one that has been projected at $3.8 million for the fiscal year starting July 1.

As a result of the cost savings put in place by the city and the association, the end result has been avoidance of any firefighter layoffs.