Conditions in Belton Fire/EMS Service

Fire Department

Contact Us

Paul Romer
Public Information Officer
254-933-5889
promer@beltontexas.gov

Fire/EMS Conditions
Oct 22, 2018

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Background
The Belton firefighter union recently became active on social media. Its goals appear to be to achieve pay increases, improved benefits and additional staff for the Belton Fire Department.

City Department Heads bring forward such requests as part of the annual budget process. In addition to departmental requests, the budget process takes into account other important information, including projected revenues. Each year the Belton City Council participates in numerous budget workshops prior to approving a final budget.

Although individual departments do not always have budget requests fulfilled, the budget process in Belton works well overall. Since this is the case, City administration will refrain from responding on social media to Firefighter Association social media postings, and have invited the Association to work with the Fire Chief to develop budget proposals for the upcoming budget process. 

In 2017, Texas Fire Chiefs Association designated the Belton Fire Department as a Recognized Best Practices Fire Department. In addition, with regard to safety, no injuries have occurred at the Belton Fire Department due to staffing levels.

This page is a resource for Belton citizens and others who have read recent Facebook postings and developed questions or concerns about City leadership or the Belton Fire Department. The intent is to share important facts that bring context to the issues shared on social media.

County EMS
  • As of Oct. 1, 2018, Belton FD is no longer the first responder for EMS services in unincorporated areas surrounding Belton.
  • Belton’s EMS area decreased from 70 square miles to 22 square miles.
  • Belton FD call volume expected to decrease by 15-20%.
  •  EMS revenues expected to decrease by approximately $500,000 per year.

 Tax Rate
  • Belton has maintained a tax rate of 65.98 cents per $100 of assessed value for seven consecutive years. 
  • Every one-cent increase in the tax rate generates approximately $95,000 for operations.
  • To generate $500,000, the City Council would have had to raise the City’s tax rate approximately 5.25 cents, an 8% increase over the current tax rate.
  • Taxes remained at the same rate this year despite the projected $500,000 loss in EMS revenue.

 FY 2019 Budget
While the anticipated loss of EMS revenue directly impacts the General Fund, total General Fund revenues for FY 2019 are still projected to increase by $338,242 or 2.39%.
  • The FY 2019 Fire Department budget increased by 2.79%.
 
Additional Personnel
  • In FY 2019, no staffing was added to any department funded by the City’s General Fund.
 
Compensation
  • The City of Belton conducts regular compensation studies.
  • Since February 2015, two adjustments have been made to the Fire Department pay scale:
    • Increased starting pay for Firefighter/EMT positions by 8.9%.
    • Increased starting pay for Firefighter/Medic positions by 7.2%.
  • Starting pay for a Firefighter/EMT is $40,428 and Firefighter/Medic is $46,478.
  •  Firefighters receive pay increases based on years of service and a civil service pay scale.
  • Firefighters may increase compensation by testing for available officer positions or achieving additional fire or emergency medical services certifications.
  • City has program to pay for the cost of certification materials and/or coursework.
 
Benefits
  • From 2015 to 2019, the City of Belton’s health insurance rates increased by more than 37%.In 2019, the City of Belton’s healthcare policy costs are expected to increase nearly 10%, or an estimated $128,500.
    • Belton provides 100% employee health insurance coverage.
    • Belton contributes to the cost of dependent health insurance coverage.
  • Employees contribute 5% of their salary to the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) plan, and the City matches those contributions at a rate of 2:1.
  • Transitioning to a 6% or 7% plan would create additional actuarial liabilities of $1,863,280 or $3,894,143 to the City’s pension plan.
  • Belton does not currently have the budget capacity to enact a change in retirement benefits. The ongoing, annual cost increase of changing TMRS benefits would be $217,065 (6%) or $446,848 (7%).
  • The City is evaluating the addition of a 457(b) match program, similar to the 401(k) match programs found in the private sector.
  • Police Officers and Firefighters (civil service employees) receive 15 days of sick leave, 13 holidays and 15-28 days of vacation depending on tenure.

 Schedule
  • Belton has 30 firefighter positions and personnel work in shifts of ten, with a minimum staffing of eight per shift on any given day.
  • Firefighters work a 24-hour shift followed by 48-hours off.
  • This is a widely practiced shift schedule across professional fire departments in the United States and Texas. During the “typical” workday, firefighters conduct training exercises, maintain equipment and perform other professional duties in addition to their primary job of responding to emergency calls. After 6 p.m., firefighters may engage in recreational activities or rest at the fire station while on standby to respond to emergency calls.
  • Due to the nature of the 24/48 schedule, if a firefighter covers an additional shift, they will be on duty for 48 hours.
  • Firefighters may not be on duty for more than 48 consecutive hours.

 Staffing Levels
Belton is consistent with other departments in the area.

City  Firefighter per capita  Front-line Firefighter per capita 
 Belton  1.56  1.41
 Harker Heights  1.50  1.30
 Copperas Cove  1.45  1.36
 Temple  1.55  1.46
 Killeen  1.61  1.55


  • Over the previous decade six Front-Line Firefighter positions and one Firefighter/Fire Marshal position have been added to the Fire Department.
  • In FY 2019, no positions were added to the Fire Department nor to any other General Fund department.

 Call Volume
  • 2017 Fire Response Calls
    • 83 fires
    • 78 hazardous conditions
    • 126 other service calls
    • 378 false alarm/good intent
  • 2017 Belton EMS Response Calls
    • 4,246 emergency medical service
      • 1,159 patient treatment or evaluation without transportation
      • 2,805 patient transported to a medical facility by ambulance.
    • 710 or 16.7% of ambulance calls were to unincorporated areas of Bell County. A similar reduction in calls is anticipated this year due to the reduced EMS service boundary, effective Oct. 1, 2018.

 Aid Agreements
Belton Fire Department has fire and EMS mutual aid agreement in place with several entities. These agreements are vital to ensuring communities across Bell County have the resources necessary to respond to any situation.
  • Fire Mutual Aid
    • Temple
    • Copperas Cove
    • Harker Heights
    • Killeen
    • Morgan’s Point Resort
    • Central Bell County Fire
  •  EMS
    • American Medical Response
    • Acadian Ambulance Service
 Heritage Park
  • Parks and Recreation Master Plan (2016-2026): Citizens of Belton identify additional parkland as a priority.
  • In May 2018, the Belton City Council authorized the purchase of 85 acres adjacent to Heritage Park for $2.17 million.
  • Park purchased with bond funds, which by law may not pay for salaries, staffing or retirement benefits.
  • The expansion of Heritage Park will allow the City to meet many long-term outdoor recreation priorities identified in the Master Plan.

Central Fire Station
  • On Oct. 22, Central Fire Station closed to facilitate environmental testing due to excessive moisture and humidity in the firefighter living quarters.
  • Testing is being done in conjunction with a building needs assessment under way by EIKON, which is evaluating the HVAC system in the building.
  • Duration of the closure depends on findings and any potential corrective action that may be needed.
  • Goal is to minimize effect on response times.

 Recent Resignations, Recruitment, Testing Process
Since August, eight resignations have occurred within the Fire Department, with Belton firefighters accepting jobs at larger departments in Georgetown, Killeen and Waco.The City’s recruitment strategy has been aggressive. Belton is a civil service city for police and fire, which requires following certain rules during the hiring process. During the most recent firefighter recruitment, 25 people applied for a job with 16 of them participating in the physical and written testing stage. Seven have progressed to the background screening and interview stage, and we are hopeful several will be hired. Recruitment will be ongoing after this current selection process is complete. 

Future Updates
Updates will be provided to this page as conditions warrant. Please contact Paul Romer, Public Information Officer, as needed. He can be reached at 254-933-5889 or promer@beltontexas.gov.