Upcoming Delafield referendum information sessions - 01

A Lake Country Fire & Rescue engine working at a structure fire.

TOWN OF DELAFIELD 鈥 At this Tuesday鈥檚 meeting, the Town Board will consider approving a cost allocation study on the funding for Lake Country Fire & Rescue.

The study, by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, would take a close look at the department鈥檚 funding structure and determine what could be done to fund it in the most equitable way.

The board meets at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, at Delafield Town Hall, W302-N1254 Maple Avenue.

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LCFR is funded by seven area communities: the city of Delafield, the Town of Delafield, the Town of Genesee, and the villages of Chenequa, Nashotah, Oconomowoc Lake and Wales. Currently, according to the intermunicipal agreement between the communities, funding for the department is split into two parts 鈥 fixed and formulaic. The fixed portion (65% of the total budget) assigns a set percentage of the fixed portion of the budget to each municipality. The formulaic portion (35% of the total budget) is assigned to the communities based on call volume, population and equalized value of improvements. The budget was not to increase year-toyear more than the U.S. Consumer Price Index plus 2%.

The department is in year two of its four-year longrange staffing plan, which was created in response to the critical lack of staffing LCFR faces with part-time and intern employees. Like many fire departments and emergency medical service providers across the country, there are various issues regarding fully funding and staffing the department, such as tax levy limits and a declining pool of paid-on-call and part-time staff. The plan calls for a transition from parttime/ intern staffing to fully paid staff. This was presented widely in 2022.

In 2023, the communities approved a budget that had an increase more than CPI plus 2%, due to the staffing crisis, but there was a stalemate between the municipalities during the approval process. The city of Delafield was unwilling to go through with the budget set forward by the fire chief for 2024; the city finances its portion of the LCFR budget from fire and EMS fees assigned to all properties in the city, and the money collected from fire fees was not going to cover the amount asked of the city.

Eventually, more fire and EMS fees were applied to properties throughout Delafield, and a compromise was made. The approved budget was less than what Fire Chief Matt Fennig proposed but more than what Delafield originally offered. In total, LCFR was able to hire three full-time staff members in 2024, half of what the department was hoping for, but still progress.

To avoid having the same stalemate occur every budget cycle, the municipalities are now considering the cost allocation study. The idea of doing a study was proposed by the city of Delafield during the stalemate, and leadership from the communities discussed it last winter.

Fennig told The Freeman that elected leadership from the seven communities met on Thursday and agreed to work on the study to "check and balance" the funding formula. Fennig called the proposal the Town of Delafield will be reviewing on Tuesday "a positive thing." He also said that the study would benefit the 2026 budget year, not 2025.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum would analyze the operation cost structure and explore whether the funding formula is equitable. The WPF would also be able to analyze LCFR鈥檚 formula in the context of similar multijurisdictional fire departments in Wisconsin. After that, there would be meetings with decision makers to determine the funding plan moving forward.

According to the WPF鈥檚 proposal, the research itself would take approximately three to four months, not including meetings with decision makers. If approved, WPF hopes to initiate it by June. The total cost of the study is $14,000, divided among the seven municipalities at $2,000 each.

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