Brentwood gets higher percentage of property tax than other cities, some should go to fire district
By Hal Bray
In 1978 Proposition 13 became the law. The legislature was given the task of reallocating property taxes according to its guidelines. As usual they made a mess of it.
Oh, the original allocation may have been alright, but the state legislature put nothing in the legislation to reallocate taxes over timebased on population shifts, growth or some other equitable measure.So those entities receiving less were, and have stayed, underfunded since 1978. Hence, our issue today for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District.
In 1978 fire fighting in East County was made up of voluntary fire districts; therefore firefighting and emergency medical services in the area received only 7.5% of our 1% ad valorem property tax. Other, established fire districts within the countyreceived, on average 12%, some much more. If East County would have received the county average or San Ramon’s allocation of 21% or even ConFire’s 14%, or if periodic adjustments had been made, the district’s budget today would be approximately double what it is today and we would not be having this severe crisis.
Where does the funding that ECCFPD did not get in 1978 go? It went to the City of Brentwood, the County, the school districts and special districts within the ECCFPD boundaries. It is time to right this historical wrong, redirecting some of our current property taxes from these entities to ECCFPD to provide for the services necessary to save lives and protect property.
We, East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECV) , want the other public entities within the ECCFPD boundaries to adjust their allocations by approximately 5% (which in many cases is only about 1-2% of their total revenue)to provide adequate funding for the ECCFPD. This would not cut any of their current programs, but would reduce their growth rate. They can keep the bonus allocations they have received since 1978, but going forward the funding is desperately needed to protect the lives and homes, schools and infrastructure of East County.
This reallocation would provide the $7.8 million that ECCFPD needs to open and operate three more stations bringing the total number of stations to six. We, ECV, would then support a tax measure on the ballot to fund beyond six stations, if necessary; but government must do their part first.
What must the community do to get the funding for ECCFPD?
The process to reallocate property taxes is clear; we know the process and the law. It is difficult, at best, and requires the co-operation of local elected officials and the concurrence by the areas residents. We recommend starting today and, in the short term, achieve this funding with a local MOU or Joint powers Agreement (JPA).
However, since our elected and appointed officials in East County are reluctant to solve this crisis, we, the residents of East County, must create the political will for these officialsto look beyond their own parochial interests and think of the common good.
This issue is, fundamentally, about fair and equitable solutions. Fire Services are funded by property taxes. Local government and school districts are among the largest land owners in East County. They are also large consumers of fire district services. However, they pay no property taxes and, therefore, do not pay their share of the costs of the services. We believe it is their responsibility to step up and share the cost of correcting this injustice.
Assemblyman Jim Frazier and State Senator Steve Glazer have said publically that they will carry any necessary legislation to Sacramento to complete the transaction, once a local agreement is reached.
Our local elected and appointed officials hold the keys to unlock the solution to our crises.Most will tell you the process is long and difficult, but will not tell you that they are the obstacle. This issue is one, long, self-fulfilling prophecy that starts with them.
This is why we have begun meeting with local elected and appointed officials and community groups. We must build the political will, break the cycle of self-interest,in our officials or, in this an election year, vote out of office any official who will not support this effort.
We need you, the community residents of East County to contact your city council, school board, irrigation and/or water district and other special districts to make this happen.
Hal Bray is a Brentwood resident and is co-chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizen’s action committee, whose goal is to improve funding for the ECCFPD. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or like the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters.