The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District is making a serious miscalculation if it fails to include a sunset clause in its final ballot language at its upcoming special meeting on Feb. 27. In what is already a long shot to pass, the district is further handicapping itself and public safety by moving forward with a tax in perpetuity.
In what was being dubbed as a “straw poll” vote by the district in a 6-3 vote, the board directed staff to leave out a sunset clause by citing a potential budget deficit in year 11 – based off projections. Just because it’s a prediction doesn’t necessarily mean it’s correct. Just to show you how predictions work, I predict prices will skyrocket and the board will need more than $197 (plus annual 3-percent increase) in 10 years – the board has just handicapped future boards from requesting more funds from voters.
This board is now locking in future boards to this tax. It’s locking residents into this tax. The worst part is: no resident will be able to have a say or the ability to check and balance what the district is doing with our parcel tax funds every 10 years. Quite frankly, it’s irresponsible.
Rather than worrying about projections in year 11, this board should be worrying about July, 2012 and doing everything in its power to gain support from voters – you do not do that by attempting to pass a tax that never goes away. By offering a sunset inclusion, it shows a much-needed good faith effort to the taxpayers.
In the long run, the board actually benefits with a sunset clause because it buys them 10 years to solve this problem while being able to continue services that are more than adequate. It also allows for the economy to improve and additional tax money to be generated with growth.
Without the sunset clause, the board appears to want this parcel tax to fail, which accommodates other plans not yet known to the public. The board needs to be giving our firefighters a fighting chance on this tax, and the only way to do that is to protect the taxpayer with a sunset.
This issue is much more complex than firefighter layoffs and stations shut down; it’s about protecting the taxpayer by keeping fire stations open. Meaning: they need to protect our insurance rates from skyrocketing by providing the best possible language to ensure passage of this parcel tax to keep services at least where they are today.
When the Sunrise Station closed on Morgan Territory Road, Kevin Keeler wrote an opinion piece to another paper that his insurance premium jumped from $500 per year to just under $5,000 – a 1,000-percent increase. Others had similar stories of rate increases. Under a three-station model, it’s a fact no one will be exempt from a rate increase. If you unfortunately become rated a 10+ by ISO, your mortgage is immediately due – don’t believe me, just ask the three Morgan Territory residents!
In what will be your final chance to be heard on this parcel tax, I would encourage citizens of East County to show up to the special meeting on Feb. 27 and request a sunset clause be included or promise to fight against this tax. I am a big supporter of giving our firefighters the tools to service our community, but not with an open checkbook. There must be checks and balances written in the final ballot language.
I urge the board to reconsider its straw poll and do the right thing by including a sunset.
Mike Burkholder, Oakley