Gary Butler is one of three candidates running for the Novato Fire Protection District Board. The Novato Fire Protection District operates separate of the city and has five fire stations and a $20 million budget.
The board oversees the agency’s budget, supplies and training and makes sure the department complies with best practices in fire protection.
Owner of a State Farm Insurance agency since 2008. Former executive at Fireman’s Fund and General Electric. Bachelor of Science in Accounting University of San Francisco; MBA in Finance from University of San Francisco.
Why I’m Running:
“The district has a habit of not balancing their budget and using the reserve to fill the difference. When I started looking at their finances, I became very concerned about the financial choices they were making. A decade ago, the district had a balanced budget and their pension was overfunded by over $13 million. Today, they’ve added retiree healthcare, and that plus retiree pensions is $47 million underfunded.
“They also have a habit of drawing off their reserves to complete their budget and that’s not a sustainable practice…. There isn’t a great diversity on the board and that creates some blind spots.”
Issues I’d Like to Address:
“The challenge the district has going forward is property tax (the primary source of revenue for the district) is not a very fast grower, while wages and benefits tends to grow at the rate of inflation or faster. They’re way behind in terms of funding their retirement healthcare and pension and with a conservative funding formula…You have to be very careful with how you use the money because it’s hard to grow it.”
“The board didn’t have a very good oversight of the former chief and his spending activities. (An audit revealed former Chief Marc Revere was spending money on an IT project that didn’t have board approval and not following procedure for credit card reimbursements that reached tens of thousands of dollars.)
"So what was the environment that facilitated this?…There wasn’t a lot of challenge and a lot of basic business techniques that weren’t being applied and I think that goes to a lack of diversity on the board.”
Another example is the board’s approval of a $910,00 contract in 2011 to a firm to oversee the construction of a new fire station that would serve Bel Marin Keys, Hamilton and the College of Marin. The project has been postponed due to lack of money, but the contract still stands and contributed to the agency's lack of funds for the new construction, according to Butler.
Why You Should Vote for Me:
“I bring high expectations, I don’t assume. Instead I try to look at things in a different way and think it’s important to challenge the status quo from time to time to make sure that what we’re being told is going on is indeed going on.”
"The district is a super organization and there is no doubt that what they do day-to-day is first rate and the chief is highly respected, and I’m running to make sure this stays in place. I don’t want other, non operational aspects to impact their ability to respond when people need help."
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