The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, which covers Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Byron, Knightsen, Bethel Island and a total of 250 square miles of far East County, is expected to ask district residents to approve a $197-per-year parcel tax next June to relieve an annual $2 million revenue shortfall and bring staffing levels up to industry standards. The shortfall, which last year resulted in the closure of two stations – one in Byron and one in Discovery Bay – was brought on by plummeting property values and a tax-sharing formula put in place in 1978, when the district was staffed primarily by volunteers. The growth of the area has required that the district become a full-time provider, yet funding remains at volunteer department levels.
If new funding is not found, the district will exhaust the reserves currently being used to help pay for operations by next July, and severe cutbacks will result. If the tax fails, officials predict that three more of the district’s remaining six stations will close, and staffing would be slashed from 48 personnel to 24.
In an effort to inform voters of the details of the situation and answer questions or concerns, a series of meetings have been scheduled in each of the communities served by the district. The first meeting will be held next Monday at Discovery Bay Elementary School, 1700 Willow Lake Rd., starting at 6:30 p.m.
See accompanying graphic for details on upcoming meetings. Groups that cannot attend the meetings but would like to hear the district’s plans first-hand are encouraged to make arrangements for additional sessions by contacting Fire Chief Hugh Henderson at 925-240-2131.