On Tuesday night the Brentwood City Council directed staff to prepare the necessary paperwork and City Council resolutions for an application to Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) to allow Brentwood to withdraw from the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). This process was initiated following ECCFPD’s decision not to approve an Engineers Report supporting a benefit assessment fee proposed to generate additional funds for the district.
If as anticipated Brentwood continues with this action it likely would involve four steps and take 12 to 18 months to complete. The first step is a formal application to LAFCo for withdrawal.
The second step involves a tax sharing agreement with the County. State Revenue and Taxation Code Section 99 provides that in any jurisdictional change the County Board of Supervisors is responsible for a negotiating property tax exchange to adjust the allocation of property tax revenue for local agencies whose service area or service responsibilities would be altered.
Revenue projections for property tax for the next fiscal year remain the same as this year. The estimated total revenue is $8,491,564. The ECCPFD is projected to start the next fiscal year with a fund balance of $3,341,380.To maintain the current service model for the next fiscal year, expenditures are estimated at $11,208,199. To continue to provide this level of service, the ECCFPD would need to use $2,716,635 of its Fund Balance.
With the County millions of dollars in debt can they really let Brentwood walk away from the district and take nearly 50% of the funding? I would say probably not without demanding a heavy toll on Brentwood.
In step three the request returns to LAFCo where the appropriate studies are conducted to determine the feasibility of allowing Brentwood to leave. The fourth step, which may or may not be necessary, probably includes a parcel tax increase to cover the dollars stripped by the County in the tax sharing agreement.
If Brentwood is able to leave; what’s next – contract with Con Fire, contract with Cal Fire or another fire service provider, create their own fire department? Where does this leave Oakley, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Bethel Island, Bryon and everyone else? Does Oakley follow Brentwood down the LAFCo path or does it seek to stop Brentwood? Can any compromises be reached to save ECCFPD? Can Brentwood be coaxed back it to the fold or have the bridges been burnt? The challenges are many but there is still time to explore all possible solutions in order to provide cost effective fire services for Far East County.