I urge Brentwood and Oakley voters to vote NO on Utility User Tax Measures Z and A, and E and G, respectively, proposed as solutions to rescue our inadequately funded East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD).
Last week’s editorial by the publisher of The Press newspapersurged us, as residents and citizens, to take responsibility for the safety of our community and families by voting “yes” on the Utility User Tax. I found the suggestion somewhat offensive. Newsflash – we already have taken responsibility.
We pay extremely high property taxes, which if properly allocated, should provide first and foremost, for public safety. What is more important than this? How about asking our elected officials and those charged with this responsibility to step up to their responsibilities and to right the wrongs that have impacted on public safety.
Property tax allocations for our fire district were set in concrete back in the 1970s, when East County fire protection was provided primarily by volunteer firefighters for a sparse population in a rural area. But times have changed dramatically! Unfortunately, there was no provision in the law to revisit those allocations.
So today, as then, ECCFPD gets about 7% of property taxes from taxpayers within its district, compared to an average of more than 12% that the other fire districts in the county get. (Some of the fire districts receive as much as 21% and 30% from property taxes.)
During all these years, the almost 30 public agencies that get a share of the property taxes from taxpayers within the jurisdiction of the ECCFPD have been receiving more funding than they would have gotten had the fire district received enough revenue to provide adequate services for today’s needs. It would seem these agencies now need tostep up to the plate and allocate some of their funds to protect their community.
And yes – it can be done legally. The first step is to use the provisions for exchange of funds under Section 99.02 of the Revenue and Taxation Code. For those who continue to criticize reallocation proposals as illegal, see page one of The Press last week which describes how tax funds from the Byron Bethany IrrigationDistrict were transferred to our fire district.
And how about the “one-time” extra funding given to ECCFPD last year, by the cities of Oakley and Brentwood and the County Board of Supervisors to open an additional fire station until mid-2017?
So, stop using the erroneous excuse that reallocation is illegal. County Controller Bob Campbell has verified he can act quickly to begin reallocation.
Next, school districts regularly pay for various expenses through line items in their budgets – so why not a budget item to pay something for emergency and fire protection for students and property? The Liberty School District already has a $355,000 line item for police resource officers on their campuses.
Finally, our state legislators must introduce and pass legislation necessary to enable property tax reallocation – to provide for a re-look at the almost 40-year old allocations, in light of today’s needs and changing future needs.
This whole process should have been started long ago. The ECCFPD did not fall into dire straits overnight. We rely on those we elect to represent us and those appointed to serve us to identify and resolve problems within their purview, and if need be, bring the issues to those who have the power to resolve them. Where have they been as our situation deteriorated? And, continually asking the taxpayers for more money doesn’t count!
We can’t put off a permanent resolution of the revenue problem for ECCFPD any longer – it must start now.
We, the voters, must send a strong message to the political powers that be – no more new taxes. A “no” vote on the Utility User Tax Measures will send that message and pressure officials to act on the reallocation process now.
Finally, the suggestion that these new Utility User Taxes will go away in the future, when other funding comes through, is a fantasy. When has that ever happened?