LLR - Kurt P. Henke


Candidate’s History with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District
Fire Chief Kurt P. Henke joined the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District (Metro Fire) on October 1, 2009 serving in the roll of Deputy Chief, Operations. On April 14, 2011, the Board of Directors selected Deputy Chief Henke to serve as the fourth Fire Chief Metro Fire. Kurt served in that roll until his retirement on October 13, 2014.

Body of the Nomination
When Kurt Henke joined Metro Fire in 2009, the economic collapse had begun. Property tax revenue declined from the height of $128 million in 2008/09 to $107 million in 2011, with no bottom in sight. Ultimately, property tax revenue would fall an additional $7 million over the next 24 months.

As a result of the economic recession and collapse of the housing market from 2008 - 2011 Metro Fire experienced a cumulative $93 million property tax loss. In fiscal year 2010 alone, the property tax revenue loss was $24 million and by 2013 property tax accounted for just 68% of all revenue, compared to 84% in 2008.

To confront this reality Chief Henke, with full support of the Board of Directors, embarked on an ambitious three-phase strategy to reduce expenses, while striving to protect core services for the community.

Phase 1. Administrative Reductions:
From the date of his selection as Fire Chief, Kurt Henke distinguish himself by clearly setting out to address some realities of the collapsing regional economy.

  • At Chief Henke’s request the Board approved the reduction of the Fire Chief’s salary by a full 20%.
  • Additionally, Chief Henke systematically realigned the senior management staff salary scale. In this process several stipends were either eliminated or incorporated in to the position salary. Thus, for the first time a single and total compensation number for each position would appear in the budget.

Phase 2. Reduction of Staff:
Next in a systematic and unprecedented series of actions Chief Henke proposed:

  • With the assistance of labor, a five-year salary freeze at 2008 levels, reductions in payments of educational incentives, and cap on paid days off were implemented.
  • Prior to the implementation of PEPRA, and with an agreement from labor, Chief Henke led the initiative to reduce the District’s contractual obligation for employers’ PERS retirement. This resulted in employees’ contributions going from 0% to 12%, thus allowing Metro Fire to maximize service to the community.
  • Employees began paying 8% of their medical premiums, in an effort to ensure lifetime medical benefits.

Phase 3. Improving department efficiency & operational changes:
Faced with these fiscal realities Metro Fire made significant operational changes, intended to deliver fire protection and emergency medical services as efficiently as possible to the public:

Direct Actions:

  • Redesigned Emergency Medical Service Division to deploy Strategic Service Delivery Model.
  • Assigned Advanced Life Support (ALS) to every engine
  • Using statistical modeling, the service cuts made were calibrated to minimize impacts on the public. While these actions significantly mitigated the impact to service, call volume continued to increase each year.
  • Implementation of the SRP Program
Related Actions: Actively seeking additions funds:
  • Supported legislation for Intergovernmental Transfers (IGT) to allow for Medi-Cal cost recovery.
  • Initiated Metro Fire’s lead role for participation in the Ground Emergency Medical Transport (GEMT) program to allow for ambulance services reimbursement from the Federal government
Results:
  • Labor costs, which represent the most significant portion of Metro Fire’s operating budget, were reduced by approximately $10.5 million annually
  • By 2012, these combined actions had reduced Metro Fire’s single-year expenditures by $31 million.
  • In aggregate, the concessions negotiated with employees reduced long-term labor costs to Metro Fire by $192 million.

Final Summary
Central to the success of Metro Fire’s efforts during this time was the leadership of Fire Chief Kurt Henke. The actions Chief Henke took to reduce labor costs and long-term liabilities allowed Metro Fire to emerge from the recession, in some respects, stronger.

As envisioned, the Leadership Legacy Recognition, is intended to provide an enduring record to the history of Metro Fire and the individuals who made significant contributions to the ongoing success of the agency. For his leadership contributions to Metro Fire, Chief Henke was nominated as the first candidate for the Leadership Legacy Recognition of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

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