Voter Guide - James D. Bon Ami

BIRTHPLACE: Highland Park, Mich.
AGE: 44
FAMILY: Wife, Melody; two daughters, Rachel, 13, and Kara, 12
EDUCATION: Sarasota Fire Academy, Manatee Technical Institute, and some college
PROFESSIONAL CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: As a firefighter/EMT it would be when I was a part of saving someones life. As a fire commissioner there are many, including increasing the personnel from 18 in 2000 to 73 this year.
FUN FACT: I enjoy participating in water activities with my family, and being involved when my daughters were involved in Girl Scouts, and now 4-H.



Why are you running for office?
I am currently on the fire commission for East Manatee Fire Rescue District Seat No. 4. I have held this position since November 2000. I am running for re-election for this commission seat because I was a career firefighter/EMT and in my time as a fire commissioner I believe that I have developed a greater understanding for the needs of the community and its fire personnel.

What experiences qualify you for this position?
In 1986, I became a volunteer firefighter with a local fire district, shortly thereafter I was hired full time and became an emergency medical technician. In 1991, my career was cut short by a tragic in-line-of-duty accident. After moving to the district, a position came open on the Board of Fire Commission.  Missing the fire service, I decided to run for the open seat and started serving in November 2000. As of January 2001, I also served as a member of the Manatee County Fire Commissioners Association Executive Board.

What makes you more qualified than your opponent?
I believe having served as a firefighter/EMT within Manatee County, and the time that I have worked as a fire commissioner gives me unique vision on the inner workings of how a multimillion-dollar fire department budget works, and general knowledge of Florida’s retirement program, medical insurance, and workers’ compensation. I have the ability to work well with, and alongside, my fellow commissioners and across district lines, and I have a strong belief in what I have done and am doing to help the provide our residents with quality protection.

What do you feel are the biggest issues facing the district and what do you propose to address them?
The biggest issues facing the district are the uncertainty in the economy and keeping up with growth while providing the best service for our residents. I feel the best way to keep up with the downturn in the economy is being fiscally responsible with the districts’ tax dollars. 

What is your position on the staffing of the fire district — sufficient, insufficient. Please explain.
I feel the staffing for the stations is appropriate for what the district’s current budget can support.

 The 2012-2013 budget shows the district operating at a $2,213,744 deficit. What is your position on that?
The 2012-13 estimated yearly revenue for the district is $9,655,811, a decrease from the last three fiscal years. Due to the decrease in the yearly revenue and to meet N.F.P.A equipment standards, the fire commission elected to spend $2,213,744 of the unrestricted reserves to make needed one-time purchases of some outdated equipment and purchase land for future stations.

The 2012-2013 budget shows the district’s reserve funds are greater than the annual operating budget — in effect, the district has $10 million in a savings account, with about half of that restricted and committed and $5 million of that “unassigned.” What is your position on the reserve: Is it too large?
No, this amount is not too large. The committed and assigned amount in the reserve fund is held for district state of emergencies, HIS/retirement funds and unforeseen financial needs. The unassigned reserved funds are being held for future capital expenditures, such as future stations, personnel and equipment.

Should the millage rate be reduced and some of those reserve funds be refunded to taxpayers?
No, the millage rate should not be reduced because the district’s general expenditures have not decreased. As mentioned above, these funds will be used for future capital expenditures.

What do you think is the right level of “unassigned” reserve funds?
With the uncertain economy, and the fire district’s budget reducing over the past three years, we still have to continue to provide a service to the public. To continue to provide the level of service that the community of the East Manatee Fire District expects we must maintain reserve funds for future growth, maintain current equipment, and provide safety equipment for the firefighters.  



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