Why do we need a Foundation?
The last couple of years since 2006 have been challenging financially for the Woodside Fire Protection District (WFPD) as it strives to deal with a significant decrease in government funding while keeping pace with new technology, equipment upgrades, increased training and a growing number of incidents. Funds raised by the Foundation – to augment the Fire District budget for equipment, facilities, fire prevention and training – will enable WFPD to provide the most advanced and efficient form of emergency services. In budgeting discussions over the past several years, the Fire District and the WFPD Board of Directors have taken steps to deal with the challenging economic situation. The establishment of a 501(c) (3) non-profit foundation is one tactic that will help bridge the gap while also enabling donors to benefit from a tax-deductible contribution.
How serious is the budget gap?
It is challenging. Key factors are: the State of California’s re-allocation/borrowing of 8% ($947,000) from Fire District revenues in fiscal year 2008-09; the required yearly allocation of $1 million of Fire District revenues to the public school system via Education Relief Augmentation Fund (ERAF); the loss of $300,000 from San Mateo County due to the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy in 2008; the fiscal belt-tightening to return its reserves to $4 million after the completion of Station 19 in 2006; the almost flat (2% to 3%) increase in tax revenue over the past five years compared to a 5% to 8% yearly increase in prior years; and increasing costs for conducting service and maintaining operations, while meeting industry standards and maintaining equipment. While the State of California is slated to reimburse the Fire District within three years for the re-allocation and annually for the ERAF allocation, there is uncertainty in the timing and amounts.
What cuts have been made internally by the Fire District to minimize the gap so far?
Since 2006, the Fire District has been actively cutting its yearly budget. Among those cuts are: No pay raises since 2007, the elimination of two positions and the reduction of supplies and services. The Foundation’s focus is on augmenting the budget for up-to-date equipment, facilities, fire prevention and training. For information on the Fire District budget, please contact the Fire District.
Is the Fire District seeking grants to offset the budget gap?
Since 1992, the Fire District has applied for and received state, federal and private grants. Grants have covered such things as the original chipper, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), public education on fire safety in the wildland-urban interface, vegetation management reduction, portable and mobile radios, and thermal imaging cameras. The grant program is ongoing and complements the Foundation’s efforts.
Who oversees the Fire District budget?
The Woodside Fire Protection District has an elected Board of Directors which oversees the Fire District budget and operations, including training, operations, EMS, and fire prevention activities. It also serves in an advisory capacity to help the Fire District formulate, clearly define, plan and achieve its long- and short-term goals.
Will my contributions go toward offsetting Fire District expenses for firefighter salaries or pensions?
No. Donations to the Foundation will never be used for firefighter salaries or benefits.
Has WFPD received contributions before?
Yes, it has received unsolicited contributions from grateful residents. However, those contributions were not tax-deductible. The formation of the Foundation enables private citizens to make tax-deductible contributions.
Can I earmark my contribution for a specific area?
Yes, if there’s something of specific interest but an open contribution enables the Fire District to target funds where they’re most needed based on tactical and strategic plans.
How was the rebuilding of Station 19 (Emerald Hills) in 2007 funded?
The Woodside Fire Protection District (WFPD) saved for years to be able to build Station 19 in Emerald Hills to replace an aging facility. Given the foreseeable economic forecast, accumulating sufficient funds to do what’s necessary for Station 7 (Headquarters, Woodside) and Station 8 (Portola Valley) will require a different approach, such as private fundraising or a bond measure.
How much of my contribution goes to WFPD and how much covers administrative costs for the Foundation?
Foundation board and committee members and others volunteer their time and expertise in many areas including marketing communications, graphic design, website design, and business development. The Foundation eagerly encourages the participation of residents in its efforts and actively seeks in-kind donations as well.
What is the oversight process to ensure that funds raised are used appropriately?
All contributions to the fire foundation are maintained and governed by the Board of Directors in accordance with foundation by-laws. Per these bylaws the foundation must produce an annual report which contains its annual assets and liabilities, principal changes in assets and liabilities, revenue, and expenses and disbursements for the fiscal year. The foundation finance committee recommends and oversees disbursements to the fire district upon confirmation by a vote of the Board of Directors. Whenever possible, the foundation solicits in-kind, underwriting or sponsorships to offset its operational expenses.