Comparing a standalone Milton fire department to complete consolidation with the Janesville Fire Department, costs presented Dec. 9 at the Joint Fire Commission meeting show consolidation continues to be less.

Ernie Rhodes (chief of the Milton and Janesville fire departments), City of Milton Finance Director Dan Nelson and Janesville Finance Director Max Gagin met to refine the first-year costs of consolidating the Milton and Milton Township Fire Department with the Janesville Fire Department.

Refined first-year costs for the consolidation model are $2.35 million, which would require $1 million more from the municipalities.

First-year costs for the stand-alone model are estimated at $2.82 million and would require $1.47 million more from the municipalities.

Costs in July were estimated at $2.4 million for consolidation and $2.725 million for the standalone option.

Given the increase over the current contribution from municipalities ($1.1 million),both options would require going to referendum. A referendum would have to pass no later than November 2021 to be included in the 2021 levy for the 2022 budget year.

Cost increases come from increasing the number of full-time employees as well as wages, he said.

As is common with a lot of public safety contracts, he said there’s a significant increase that happens to wages at various stages in the first five years of a contract.

Year 1 of the consolidation model shows the salary for a full-time paramedic is $53,000, Year 3 is $73,000, and Year 5 is 85,100.

Without a having a contract or parameters to apply, Nelson said, “We didn’t run a detailed analysis on the standalone model.”

Annually, $175,000 is budgeted for capital contributions in both Year 1 models then increases to $197,000 in Year 5.

Overall, Nelson said, “if we were to do a referendum, we’d probably be looking at $1.4 million. Then we’d have to figure out the cost breakout using equalized value to determine how much municipality would pay towards that.”

Commission member Bill Wilson noted that Janesville already has in place a structure for administration and human resources.

“We’re paying a portion of some of those costs,” he said “I think there also are economies of scale that really are going to come along as we move to consolidate with a larger department.”

Training is another benefit, he added.

After a referendum passes, Rhodes said, “I would recommend a full consolidation, which means all the employees of the Milton Fire Department and all the operations would be fully transitioned to the Janesville Fire Department.”

The Janesville and Milton fire departments would be one department with six stations, a multi-million dollar budget for fire and EMS response.

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What’s included in consolidation?

15 full-time firefighters/paramedics, three full-time lieutenants, existing Milton battalion chiefs and administrative assistant, and full utilization of Janesville fire/EMS management structure. Management structure includes fire, deputy and battalion chiefs, fire marshal and inspector. Janesville would take over financial reporting including payroll and invoice processing.

What’s included in the standalone model?

15 full-time firefighter/paramedics, three full-time captains, three full-time lieutenants, one full-time and one part-time administrative assistant, a fire chief and a deputy chief, and funding for accounting/payroll/HR services.

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