SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) released the following statement today regarding a recent Contra Costa County civil grand jury report that found the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District is unable to meet national standards for response times to the communities it serves because of a chronic funding shortfall.
“The grand jury report confirms what we already know: East Contra Costa Fire Protection District is failing to meet basic response time standards for emergency calls. The reason for this is obvious: Because of an ongoing funding crisis, ECCFPD has had to close five of its eight stations.
The grand jury report found that in 2016 the average response time for emergency service calls was 8:03 minutes, far longer than the national standard of 5 to 6 minutes – potentially costing lives. Response times ranged from 14:24 minutes for Bethel Island to 7:04 minutes for Oakley.
Since the grand jury report’s release, ECCFPD has closed Knightsen Station 94, lengthening response times even further. Now there are only three stations covering the entire district.
In addition, ECCFPD Chief Brian Helmick has cited firefighter turnover, lack of essential maintenance and the inability to replace equipment as ongoing issues that continue to erode the district’s ability to operate effectively.
We can no longer accept a situation that puts lives and properties at risk and raises homeowners’ insurance rates. I am continuing to seek legislative solutions in Sacramento to resolve this crisis. AB 898, which I introduced earlier this year, seeks to reallocate $10.5 million from the East Bay Regional Park District to properly fund ECCFPD. If passed, this bill – without raising any taxes – will provide the funds necessary to reopen closed fire stations and bring emergency medical and fire services back to acceptable levels.”
To register support for AB 898, go to Assemblymember Frazier’s website, www.asmdc.org/frazier, click on the “Contact Jim” button on the upper right and select “AB 898” as the issue, or call his districts office at (925) 513-0411 or (707) 399-3011.
Assemblymember Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove. To contact Assemblymember Jim Frazier please visit his website at www.asmdc.org/frazier or call his District Offices at 707-399-3011 or 925-513-0411. Follow Assemblymember Jim Frazier on Facebook and “Like” him for updates on events and happenings in the 11th AD.
The East Bay Regional Park District has come out against AB 898 for the following reasons:
- Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) has introduced AB 898 which would reallocate $10.5 annually in property tax revenues from the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). EBRPD’s costs to operate parks and trails in East Contra Costa far exceed the amount of funding this area provides to keep these park services. The primary source of funding within this Fire District jurisdiction is from a Lighting and Landscape District and for Measure WW bond for acquisition and development of parks and a very small amount ($381,000) in ad valorem property taxes. Therefore diverted funding would mostly come from property taxes received from other parts of the County.
- AB 898 is deceptive and irresponsible as it redistributes the financial burdens of an underfunded service district to EBRPD, an unaffected party. The funding problems associated with the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) were known at the time of its formation as identified by the County’s Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCo) in 2002. LAFCo required the issues of local governance, inadequate service and insufficient funding be resolved by December of 2004, which ECCFPD has not done. LAFCo staff concluded that an independent fire district would not be feasible without a tax.
- EBRPD is already one of the lowest taxing agencies in the County at .0003 per $100 assessed valuation. A reduction of $10.5 million is close to 20% of EBRPD’s budget for parks and trails in Contra Costa County and would impact jobs, services and parks.
- Should EBRPD lose funding through this Bill, the District would be forced to make drastic reductions to services, operations and possibly staffing in parks and trails in East County including Big Break Regional Shoreline, Round Valley Regional Preserve, Delta DeAnza and Marsh Creek Regional Trails. Additional reduction in funding may negatively impact the District’s ability to support planning for public access at the Concord Naval Weapons Station or new parklands in Brentwood and Oakley.
- Contrary to arguments supporting this bill, EBRPD’s total annual operating budget is $127 million (2016). All additional revenues reported in the Park District’s budget are voter- approved bonds or pre-designated funds not legally transferrable.
- The Park District spends over $10 million annually to maintain 17 parks and trails and 30,000 acres in East Contra Costa County.
- The Park District has also spent or allocated over $10 million in Measure WW capital funds for Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley and some regional park projects. In addition, the Measure WW local grant money includes $2.3 million for Brentwood, $1.5 million for Oakley and $3 million for unincorporated Contra Costa County (including $600,000 for the Byron Playfields Project). This is on top of Measure AA, passed in 1988, which allocated over $13 million in Measure AA local grant money to East County.
- EBRPD already spends $5 million annually to maintain three State-owned park properties … with no contribution from the State of California.
The following letter of opposition of AB 898 by Robert E. Doyle, EBRPD General Manager, was also sent to: Assemblymember Catharine Baker, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Assemblymember Tim Grayson, Assemblymember Kansen Chu, Senator Bob Wieckowski, Senator Bill Dodd, Senator Steve Glazer, Senator Nancy Skinner, Supervisor Richard Valley, Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Supervisor Candace Andersen, Supervisor Federal Glover, Supervisor Nate Miley, Supervisor Wilma Chan, Supervisor John Gioia, Supervisor Diane Burgis, and Supervisor Keith Carson.
Here is a copy of the text sent to
March 29, 2017
We are writing in strong opposition to a legislative concept proposed by Assemblymember Jim Frazier. The Assemblymember has floated a possible amendment of AB 898 which would reallocate $10.5 million in property tax revenues from the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD).
Property tax diversion from a high performing agency, which has the trust of the voters, to an agency which has built sufficient voter support is a dangerous precedent. It should concern all government agencies which rely on property tax funding. The Park District has worked very hard to obtain the public’s trust for repeated two-thirds voters for District measures, including the 2008 $500 million bond Measure WW which passed with 71%. In contract, the ECCFPD has tried unsuccessfully three times to pass a funding measure (2012, 2015 and 2016). The diversion proposed by Assembly Member Frazier would be a legislative precedent: rewarding local agencies who lack sufficient local support at the expense of those doing the job voters asked them to do.
The Park District’s 2016 operating budget was $127 million. A $10.5 million redirection of general fund money would represent a cut of nearly 10%. This would require a reduction in services and staff, including the District’s own firefighters who are represented by AFSCME, throughout both Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It could also require the District to close or severely reduce hours for parks and visitor centers like Big Break Regional Shoreline.
The Park District strongly supports firefighters and public safety personnel. EBRPD firefighters were among the fire responders to the 1991 Oakland hills fire which cost 25 people their lives, destroyed 3,354 homes and apartment units, burned 1,500 acres and cost $1.5 billion in damages. Park District public safety air support provided primary fire suppression for the Morgan/Mount Diablo fire in 2014 which cost EBRPD $4 million. The Park District provides critical wildfire fuels management for 30 miles of East Bay hills in 11 regional parks directly adjacent to tens of thousands of nearby residents and businesses. These vital services would be compromised by a $10.5 reduction in the Park District’s general fund.
The Park District receives no property tax revenue from the ECCFPD region. Taxpayers in this jurisdiction are receiving a tremendous return on investment. The Park District spends over $10 million annually to maintain 17 parks and trails and 30,000 acres in this part of the county. In addition, the Park District has spent or allocated over $10 million in Measure WW capital funds for Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley and some regional park projects. The Measure WW local grant program, and its 1988 predecessor Measure AA, provide $184 million on a per capita basis back to every East Bay city. Over $13 million in Measure AA local grant money has been allocated to East County. The Measure WW local grand money includes $2.3 million for Brentwood, $1.5 million for Oakley and $3 million for unincorporated Contra Costa County (including $600,000 for the Byron Playfields Project).
A recent economic report found that every $1 of the Park Districts operating budget yields a return of $4. The same report indicates that the Park District hosts 425 million visits a year and provides $500 million annually in benefits which include the value of recreation, healthcare, property values and ecosystem services. The Park District also generates $200 million in regional activity every year that would not happen without the District. This includes bait and tackle shops in Oakley and Brentwood for those who fish at Big Break, Contra Loma and other regional park facilities.
The diverse scope and breadth of services EBRPD provides to its constituents is unrivaled and would be imperiled by this bill, including:
- First responder and fire suppression activities on State Responsibility Areas within the East Bay
- The operation of 200 miles of non-motorized commuter corridors alleviating auto traffic
- Management of sensitive habitat lands containing listed species on behalf of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the citizens of the East Bay Area
- The operation of three units of the state park system at a cost of $5 million annually funded by local taxpayer property taxes and no operating dollars from the state
- Premier nature education programming for youth within the greater East Bay Area, serving 60,000 school children annually.
The Park District is interconnected with many aspects of life in the East Bay including infrastructure, jobs, transportation, public health and housing. It has a balanced budget with an AAA bond rating. The Park District also has consistently received certificates of Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards and certifications of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Financial Officers Association. It has a long history as a responsible agency with 96% of voters indicating the Park District provides a valuable public resource. We highlight these issues as examples of good governance and service to the electorate. To redirect funds from EBRPD to another agency that has not developed broader support is counter to the direction from the voters and quite simply put, wrong.
As a matter of good governance and highly negative precedent this bill would establish, we urge your strong opposition of AB 898 should it be amended to divert funding from EBRPD.
Robert E. Doyle
cc. EBRPD Board of Directors