Originally published Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 06:05a.m.
Thankfully, tragedies do not happen every day.
On June 30, 2013, Prescott, its residents and families lost 19 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots to the raging Yarnell Hill Fire.
The community came together to console and support the fallen Hotshots’ families. Many benefit efforts, including concerts, were held over the following months.
It was a time in our history when the Prescott area came together admirably.
It was the right thing to do.
In the ensuing months and years, City of Prescott officials started to see an already existing challenge grow out of control. PSPRS (Public Safety Personnel Retirement System) unfunded liabilities were spiraling upward. The debt has currently topped a total of $86.4 million for benefits owed to retirees, including the Hotshots who were full-timers and those who have been awarded benefits.
Of the $86.4 million, the cost was tabbed at $5 million for the Hotshots, which the state paid. But that total has grown to $12.5 million.
This cost goes beyond the Hotshots’ survivors; it is now the city’s burden. And we know that Arizona has other budgetary challenges on its plate in this budget.
At the same time, the fact remains the Hotshots were fighting fires on State Trust Land — a debt that all Arizonans should pay, not only taxpayers in Prescott.
We applaud Sen. Karen Fann for introducing a bill for the state to pay the remaining $7.5 million that the city is looking at for the Hotshots.
The Prescott Republican expects the first and second readings of the bill to occur at the legislature on Monday, Jan. 29, after which it would be assigned to a legislative committee for review.
We agree with Fann, who has said it is unfair for the taxpayers of Prescott to bear the full burden for the Hotshots’ pensions when the crew was “protecting Arizona, and fighting a fire that was not even in Prescott.”
They were defending state land, and the money would go straight to PSPRS on Prescott’s behalf.
It is the right thing to do.