By Bryan Scott
In a 1987 speech President Ronald Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The speech was delivered at the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall, which has now vanished into history.
Today, the people of Brentwood say to Brentwood City Manager Gus Vina, “Mr. Vina, reallocate our taxes.”
Today a public safety crisis exists, a crisis that is well known to the elected leaders and municipal administrators paid to run the cities, special districts and schools within the 249-square mile territory of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD).
President Reagan made a bold statement; he issued a clear directive to the leader of the USSR. Even though the Berlin Wall was not in the USSR, everyone knew where policy decisions on the Berlin Wall were made.
A community-proposed solution to our local crisis includes the redistribution of 5.2% of future property taxes. Today about $165 million in property taxes are collected within the territory of the fire district, and in the most recent year property values within Brentwood and Oakley grew by over 8%.
By phasing-in this tax redistribution program over four years each government entity would receive 1.3% less in new property tax funding each year, cumulatively, while at the end of the program the ECCFPD would be funded at about the county average fire district rate, 12%. This would be a significant improvement over the current 7%.
City Manager Vina’s procedural steps are simple. The Brentwood City Council needs to hold a public hearing, pass a resolution, and then forward a property tax transfer agreement to Bob Campbell, Contra Costa County Controller. It is a simple and eloquent procedure, one used by the county to transfer property taxes just a month ago.
Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery, County Administrator David Twa and the other special districts of east county can follow the same procedures, outlined in the California Revenue and Taxation Code, Chapter 6, Section 99.02. School districts would transfer operating funds to the fire district to fulfill their obligation to assure the safety of their students, staff and faculty, using a memorandum-of-understanding method.
Using last year’s numbers as a guide this tax redistribution this would add $7.8 million to the fire district’s funding, allowing ECCFPD to permanently staff and operate a total of six fire stations, up from today’s three stations.
City Manager Vina, as well as his Oakley counterpart, City Manager Montgomery, and County Administrator Twa have all objected to the proposal. They’ve said there are other uses for the money, or that tight budgets make the funds unavailable.
Using last year’s numbers Brentwood’s contribution to this program would be $150,771 per year, $603,059 in total. Brentwood’s total budget is about $46 million. Oakley’s contribution would be $36,218 per year, $144,871 in total. The County’s contribution would be about $300,000 per year, $1.2 million in total, counting all county agencies. The county’s total budget is $1.470 billion.
The question has been raised, which services are to be cut? The answer is none. Government expenditures, and the services these expenditures provide, will simply grow at a slower rate for four years. They need not be cut.
The people of Brentwood and Oakley have said “no” to additional taxes for fire and emergency medical services that are provided to the rest of the county out of current property taxes. It is time to fund an adequate level of essential services using the current taxpayer burden.
“Mr. Vina, reallocate our taxes.”say the people of Brentwood.
Bryan Scott is a Brentwood resident and Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizens action committee whose aim is to improve funding for the ECCFPD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 925-418-4428. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.