INFO=NYC Council Fire Committee-3/08/2012 FDNY-Cmsr.Cassano
NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee
Preliminary Budget Fiscal Year 2013 Testimony of Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano New York City Fire Department
Ma.-ch 8, 2012
Good r:noming Chairperson Crowley and Council Members. I am Salvatore Cassano, New York City's Fire Commissioner. I am joined by Bob Sweeney, the FDNY Chief of Operations, Don Shacknai our First Deputy Commissioner, and Steve Rush, our Assistant Commissioner for Budget. Also here is Chief of EMS Operations, Abdo Nahrnod, along with other members of my senior staff Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about the Preliminary
Budget for FY 2013 for the New York City Fire Department.
Over the last several years, the Fire Department has been subjected to a series of significant budget reductions. We have been able to withstand these cuts and manage our operations while maintaining a high standard of service to the public. For example, the 66 fire-related deaths in 2011 were the second lowest total in recorded history. The lowest recorded total was in 2010, when 62 people died in fires. The decade since 2002 has been the safest I 0-year period since record keeping began in 1916, with 37 percent fewer civilian fire fatalities than in the previous 10-year period.
In 2011, fire response times also were at near record lows and EMS response times to life-threatening calls were at a record low. The number of structural fires dropped by six percent in 2011 and serious fires declined three percent. I attribute this reduction in fire activity to aggressive fire prevention and education efforts, including
inspection programs and more than 6,000 fire safety presentations that we do each year citywide. While I am extremely proud of this performance, we are preparing for the operational impact of the closure of20 companies. These performance levels will be difficult to maintain ifthat happens. Also in jeopardy is our ability to effectively respond lo large, multi-casualty incidents, as our Chief of Department, Ed Kilduff, pointed out in his testimony and comments at the hearing on terrorism preparedness last Monday. Fiscal2013 Budget The City has forecast a budget deficit of$3 billion in FY 2014, so significant budget reductions must be identified now for the FY 2013 Preliminary Budget. As I just mentioned, we are once again faced with the prospect of closing 20 f1re companies
As I have said in the past, this level of cuts will affect response times
and our operations throughout the City. Every community in the City will be affected, not just those communities in the response areas ofthe closed companies. Twenty closures would require us to make adjustments in our operations, which will make it extremely challenging to maintain the same levels of service to the communities we serve. Beyond the proposed company closings, we have reduced the Department's budgeted civilian headcount by 35 positions for FY 2013. This reduction is on top of myriad headcount reductions we have made over the last several years, including reductions in such critical areas as Fleet and Facilities Maintenance.
As you know, the Department is prevented from hiring firefighters due to a Federal Judge's decision in the lawsuit brought by the Department ofJustice and the Vulcan Society. As a result, in 2011 we again undertook a massive grassroots recruitment effort to make ali communities aware of the opportunity to take the firefighter test. I am enormously proud of the efforts of the dedicated members of the FDNY's Recruitment Unit and the response they received. As a result of this outreach, we had great success on all fronts. The percentage of people of color applying to take the test was 49.5%, with a total of30,425 minority applicantsfor the Firefighter exam. That's more minority applicants than the total number of people who tookthe test in
For pUipOses of this hearing today, I will not go into the details of the Judge's Order that we have recently appealed. But we have been working closely with experts from all the parties-- under the Court's supervision-- to create a new exam. Candidates are scheduled to sit for the firefighter exam starting March 15th and continuing through April 20th. We will not likely commence hiring firefighters again until March 2013. By that time, we will have gone nearly five years without a probationary firefighter class entering the Academy. The delay in hiring has led to soaring overtime -- likely totaling more than $230 million by the time that new class comes on board. Even before that, we will face
significant challenges this summer when we expect to be down 500 or more firefighters. While we are confident of our ability to meet the challenges posed this year, it remains
imperative that a new list be promulgated as expeditiously as possible to avoid critical staffing challenges in FY 2014. We must also prepare for the eventuality that many EMS members will pass the promotional test for firefighter, thinning the ranks in EMS fairly substantially. To limit the impact of the anticipated EMS head count attrition, we instituted in last year's budget an over-quota EMS hiring plan with OMB, and are evaluating similar scenarios for the upcommg year. We continue to face constraints on civilian hiring and have very limited opportunities to replace critical staff. This has an impact on units throughout the Department but in particular, as I mentioned earlier, in the areas of fleet repairs, facility maintenance and administrative support. We are also scheduled to reduce discretionary and administrative overtime for our uniformed members- for such things as training, special events or headquarters assignments-- in the amount of$3 million. This does not affect roster-staffing overtime or overtime that is required to maintain minimum staffing in the fire companies.
In order to help defray the increasing costs of providing 911 ambulance transport service throughout the City, the Department intends to increase the rates we charge for EMS treatment and transfer. Ambulance rates were last raised in February 2009, but that increase did not allow the Fire Department to fully recoup the cost of providing EMS services. The newly adopted rates will soon help us recoup more of those costs, and will reduce the amount borne by City taxpayers.
We forecast that this ambulance rate increase will generate more than $15 miiiion annually and that ambulance revenue collections will increase by $4 million overall due to improved billing measures and increased FDNY ambulance tour coverage. Building Inspection Safety Program Fees
In the coming months, the Department will also be seeking Council approval to institute a new fee for periodic fire safety inspections. These inspections, which assess egress, combustible material storage, electrical hazards and fire protection systems, among other things, are conducted by FDNY field units. We expect that our field units will perform inspections in approximately 36,000 buildings. This fee initiative is expected to generate approximately $9.9 million in new revenue annually.
In addition, we have also examined the cost of performing our plan review functions in the Bureau of Fire Prevention. This assessment indicated that the operating cost to the Fire Department of conducting plan reviews for the public was $2.7 million in Fiscal2011. But, since our plan review revenue totals only $1.4 million -- based on a $210 fee that architects, builders or owners pay when they submit plans for our review the total amount of fees paid was only 50 percent of our cost of providing this service. We are therefore amending our rules to adjust the fees, raising them to $420 per review. We anticipate that this will result in $2.7 million in projected revenue, or an increase of
Over the last several months, we determined that our Fire Prevention revenne collections were ahead of our plan for this Fiscal year, and were above last year's