East Contra Costa Fire is asking us to approve a 10-year, $197 parcel tax with up to 3 percent annual CPI escalation. By year 10, that tax could be as much as $257.04, and then they run out of money again. Should we approve it?
I have attended the ECCFPD town hall meetings as well, asking probing questions of the fire chief and a fire district board member. I have examined the internal financial projections of the district and have concluded that it will indeed be faced with multiple station closures without additional funds this coming year. The question remains: should we approve the tax and what will be the consequences of failure?
First, some hard facts: Our fire district has a much lower pay scale than Contra Costa Fire, which serves a large part of the county. East Contra Costa Fire serves 250 square miles and has seen tax revenues decline from $12 million in 2008 to less than $8 million today. The district receives from 5 to 9 cents of property tax revenues compared to 12 to 14 cents in communities served by Contra Costa Fire. This is a structural problem related to Prop. 13, and the district board is unable to make necessary changes.
Most will agree that our current fire safety coverage is barely adequate, with the Discovery Bay Boulevard station already closed. What will happen to fire insurance premiums if our closest station becomes Brentwood? The choices are clear. Take a gamble and hope the Board of Supervisors solves the problem or approves the parcel tax as proposed.
Bruce Hall, Discovery Bay