December 31, 2020
Dear Black Forest Fire Rescue Neighbors and Board of Directors,
2020 proved to be one of the more challenging years in recent history for the department, the District, the region, the state, nation, and world. Fortunately, Black Forest Fire Rescue stayed intensely focused on the immediate mission while simultaneously maintaining hypervigilance about the future. Sustainability, operational capability, with both economic and fiduciary vigilance have been the highlights of the 2021 budget process. BFFRPD has been extremely fortunate to have a very supportive community and a dedicated staff. The voter approved mill levy increase was the singular most decisive action taken to ensure the District can work towards improving previous operational shortfalls and backlogs of capital improvements.
The economic future is very uncertain across the world, the country, the state, and the region. Economists cannot agree what the immediate future over the next 18-36 months will be like given the unknown impacts of both Federal and State mandates due to COVID-19. This uncertainty was a major contributing factor during the 2021 budget process. The department leadership revisited the community risks and the departments capabilities to manage/mitigate those risks while also preparing for the uncertain economic times ahead. So, while the 2021 budget process was not influenced by a “bunker mentality” of consolidating everything and holding fast in the present, it was also not allowed to overextend the financial resources, present or future. A balance between real threats and perceived/possible threats was maintained. The 2021 budget is solid and sound, providing the framework for progress in the professional capabilities of the BFFR most fundamental mission profiles while also securing financial stability for the future economic uncertainties.
A budget is a plan and like all good plans, it will not survive intact when it comes into contact with reality. However, the 2021 budget was built with multiple contingencies within it and is intended to be implemented over time as the unknown factors slowly become known factors. Department leadership does not believe that hope is a sound strategy and therefore is preparing for worsening economic conditions. District leadership will continue to monitor and manage the budget by addressing immediate needs with a focus on future impacts and long-term sustainability. This adaptable and watchful approach is to ensure that every effort is made to continue to deliver the best service possible to the community. Fortunately, the community elected a Board of Directors who have taken their fiduciary role very seriously and they are maintaining vigilant oversight to ensure all tax monies are properly allocated to ensure long term sustainability as well. The strength of this budget is that while it does not overextend the District, it does allow the operations to progress to the necessary operational capabilities to meet the communities unique and complex needs.
The department adopted a zero-based budget for 2020 and this method continues into 2021. While this budget method is the most time intensive method, it is also the most detailed method of budgeting; it provides both a financial road map and an allocation road map. For 2021, the addition of a budget booklet is another decision to provide transparency and accountability while simultaneously also providing both a financial and strategic plan. Each years’ budget is directly linked to, and has a direct impact on, the Districts’ and departments’ financial and strategic plan. As part of an overall effort to provide succession planning, the department has chosen to provide constant communication and messaging, internally and externally, to the members and the community at large. This year’s budget message provides the overall context under which the budget planning process took place, and the budget booklet is intended to provide more granular detail to any individual interested in the exciting future ahead.
In addition to dealing with a global pandemic, threats of civil unrest, and historic dryness contributing to our persistent wildfire threats, BFFRPD has also continued to work towards a solution to exclude properties within the municipality of Colorado Springs. These exclusions will have a negative impact on the Districts’ non-operating revenue in the years to come. However, all parties agree that these exclusions are the ethical decision; that is why in 2017 and 2018 the Board of Directors made the decisions to move towards exclusions. While the 2021 non-operating revenue is not impacted by these exclusions there is an increase in allocating funding to reserve accounts to begin preparations for a short but definite impact on future budgets. The continued annexation by the City of Colorado Springs is the single largest threat to the financial well-being of the District and thus the long-term operational capability to the District.
The BFFRPD budget process is a collective effort that every single member can contribute to. The total budget requests for 2021 exceeded the projected revenue by more than $1.2 million. This is an outstanding indicator that the members of the department are very motivated and desire to provide better service delivery and operational capability to the community. These requests are being prioritized for follow on budget years and the budget process for 2022 through 2027 has already begun. A primary component of the 2021 budget process and its follow on 2022 budget projection is to allow for time and space. Time and space so that economic conditions can develop and be more discernable. It is for the reason that while the 2021 budget is forward progress in alignment with the voter approved mill levy, it is also very conservative and poised to pivot and adapt to changing economic conditions.
It is with great appreciation to all those who participated in the 2021 budget process, the Board of Directors, the Treasurer of the Board, the BFFR Finance & Administrative Section, the Deputy Fire Chief, the Fire Officers and their staff, and especially the support of the community, that I submit the 2021 budget.
Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District
11445 Teachout Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80908
December 31, 2020