The Municipal Service Review (MSR) for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) provided a number of recommendations. The first is to adjust the sphere of influence (SOI) of the district. It needs to expand and contract. The expansion would include adding the Delta islands, Jersey Island, Bradford Island and Webb Tract, which are currently served by the District, and then reducing the SOI in the City of Antioch by dropping Roddy Ranch and Russellmann Park in the City of Clayton.
The second recommendation has to do with the ECCFPD SOI. It would be designated as “provisional” and contingent on discussions between the County and the cities of Oakley and Brentwood relating to independent governance, adequate financing, and equitable allocation of resources. The provisional SOI would automatically expire at the expiration of a 12-month period (from the date of actual SOI update) and revert to a zero SOI. A zero SOI would essentially dissolve the district.
ECCFPD is a dependent special district and is governed by the five-member county Board of Supervisors. Other governance options could include an independent governing board or a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and ultimately local control. ECCFPD has not succeeded in implementing governance changes, specifically an independent governing body representative of the community, as had been recommended by LAFCO at the time of its 2002 formation. LAFCO resolution 02-24 stated “By December 2004, the question of governance shall be resolved and submitted for approval of the electorate within the boundaries of the consolidated East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, if necessary.”
The District’s total revenues were $12.2 million in FY 07-08. Revenue sources include property taxes (94 percent), intergovernmental revenues (two percent), Oakley fees collected in Summer Lakes (one percent), and miscellaneous sources (three percent). The District’s share of property tax revenues was seven percent in Brentwood, five percent in Oakley, and nine percent on average in unincorporated areas in FY 07-08; by comparison, the average fire district property tax share countywide was 12 percent in cities (served by fire districts) and 13 percent in unincorporated areas. ECCFPD lacks adequate revenues to provide urban staffing levels in urban areas, and relies in most areas on two person crews; whereas all other fire service providers in Contra Costa (except CCFPD) rely on three-person crews. It would cost the District about $18 million to achieve an urban level of service. A previous study prepared by Citygate determined that a tax increase would be needed to fund adequate service levels.
Equitable Allocation of Resources
How are resources allocated within the district? Fire stations in the cities of Brentwood and Oakley have smaller crews than in urban areas elsewhere, and a substantial portion of tax revenues generated in the cities is expended on operating fire stations in outlying areas. Property tax revenues generated in the cities of Brentwood and Oakley presently subsidize service levels in the unincorporated areas. Perhaps a two-tiered service approach under which Oakley and Brentwood would achieve an urban level of service and rural areas would be assigned a different service level.