Faced with operating at a level that is not sustainable any time in the foreseeable future, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) is seeking ways to raise substantial additional revenues. Despite closing two fire stations, one in Discovery Bay and the other in Bryon, and providing comparatively low salary and benefits packages, the ECCFD is still deficit spending $2.5 million a year. ECCFPD relies on property taxes for 99.6 percent of its revenue, and receives a below average share of property taxes compared with other fire districts in the County. If no action is taken the district will run out of money sometime during the 2012-2013 budget year.
To assist in this process they hired True North Research (TRN) to conduct a parcel tax feasibility study. On Monday, January 10, TRN reported the results of the study to the Board of Directors. The study was a telephone survey of 600 likely voters living in the district. The phone call was about 15 minutes long with the purpose of evaluating the support for a parcel tax up to $96 per parcel for seven years only. A number of figures were presented during the study ranging from $125 to $72 per year. The $125 amount received the least support at 50%; the differences between $96, $84 and $72 were close enough to the margin of error of +/- 3.97% as not to make a statistical difference. Irrespective of the amount none of them attained the 2/3rds supermajority necessary to pass a parcel tax in California. The conclusion from the study was that a parcel tax would not pass in 2011.
A potential alternative was discussed, a benefit assessment. Under California law a benefit assessment requires a weighted majority of property owner support for passage. Benefit assessments are based on a specific benefit and are not subject to Proposition 13 supermajority. If a weighted majority of ballots returned (50% plus 1) are in support, the assessment wins. The weighting means that each ballot is “weighted” by the amount of assessment it represents. In other words, those property owners who would pay more assessment have more say in the outcome.
Additional information was asked of staff so the agenda item was carried over to the next Board meeting scheduled for Monday, February 7th @ 6:30 – Regular Meeting Location: 3231 Main Street, Oakley CA 94561