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NSFD board delays formula, expulsion decisions as River Hills meeting looms

Nov. 19, 2013

Waiting for the results of a second round of discussion at the River Hills Village Board on Wednesday, the North Shore Fire Department Board of Directors early Tuesday decided to delay its decision on a proposed funding formula.

The decision will be made when the NSFD board meets at 4 p.m. Nov. 25 at the NSFD headquarters in Brown Deer.

Consideration of both the formula and a possible expulsion of River Hills was on the agenda Tuesday. By delaying the two matters, the NSFD board bought time for the River Hills Village Board to weigh in and potentially call a vote on the formula at its upcoming Wednesday meeting.

River Hills Village Manager Chris Lear said several trustees have contacted him to have a formula discussion and potential vote included on the board agenda Wednesday.

"We want to see what the outcome of that is before we cast this thing in stone," said Bayside Village President Sam Dickman, who made the motion to hold over deliberations until next week.

The River Hills board met Friday to discuss the matter, but did not produce a recommendation or call a vote on the formula proposal. However, Village President Bob Brunner said before the meeting Friday that he plans to veto the proposal, regardless of what the River Hills board said.

He reiterated that position Monday after the potential expulsion was added to the agenda by Brown Deer Village President Carl Krueger, and again after the NSFD board meeting Tuesday.

He said River Hills trustees are focused too much on the potential consequences of his veto, namely Glendale Mayor Jerome Tepper's threat to leave NSFD if the proposal is vetoed and the potential expulsion, and not enough on the formula itself.

"We'll see what happens tomorrow," Brunner said.

Brunner has criticized a particular point in the proposal, a change that counts all types of property value — residential, commercial and industrial — equally. The current formula weighs commercial and industrial property types higher than residential under the assumption those types of properties cost more to protect.

Counting all property values equally shifts some costs off communities with higher amounts of commercial and industrial properties and onto NSFD member communities, like River Hills, which are mostly residential.

However, Fire Chief Robert Whitaker and Public Policy Forum President Rob Henken, who mediated the discussions throughout the year that resulted in the proposal, have said the change makes sense since technology has made commercial and industrial properties less costly to protect and the Fire Department's majority of calls have shifted over time from fire calls to emergency medical service calls.

Henken also has said the change is offset to a certain degree by another change in the proposal, an increase in emphasis on historical use.

Tepper said after the meeting that if Brunner ends up vetoing the formula next week he will recommend to the Glendale Common Council that the city split with NSFD in 2016. A two-year withdrawal notice requirement means a decision needs to be made by the end of the year, Tepper said, because the formula in use today lapses at the end of 2015.

Tepper has said Glendale can't afford the formula to revert to its original 1995 form, which nearly caused the city to leave NSFD in 2007.

"That's our option if somehow this gets vetoed," Tepper said of the withdrawal.

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