Six East Contra Costa School Districts Tell Group to Find Another Fire Solution, Call Plan Illegal

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On Wednesday, six East Contra Costa County School Districts wrote a letter to the co-chairs of East County Voters For Equal protection (ECV) that called their fire district solution illegal and nonviable.

The Antioch Unified School District, Brentwood Union School District, Knightsen School District, Byron Union School District, Oakley union School District and Liberty Union High School District wrote Hal Bray and Bryan Scott after being invited to a Workshop on February 23.

Hal Bray approached the Antioch Unified School District last Wednesday asking them to contribute $105,000 to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District—Antioch has just a single school within the boundaries of East Contra Costa Fire.

The ECV plan asks about 30 agencies to shift a combined $7.8 million of the $154 million of property taxes collected within the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District jurisdiction to the fire district—on a voluntary basis.

Under the plan, the agency recipients of the ad valorem property tax to voluntarily shift a small portion (5.2 percent) of their property tax allocation percentage to the fire district. District taxpayers would not be asked to pay any additional taxes.


Here is a copy of the letter:

February 1, 2017

Hal Bray and Bryan Scott
1300 Crescent Drive
Brentwood, CA 94513

Dear Mr. Bray and Mr. Scott,
We are collectively in receipt of your formal invitation to participate in the Funding Workshop
you have organized and scheduled for February 23, 2017. We understand the goals that you have created for the meeting to be, “At the end of the session participants:

  1. Will understand and agree on the fire district’s current funding crisis;
  2. Agree that their organization will be a participant in the solution to the crisis, and will understand the procedural mechanics of transferring property tax or operating funds to ECCFPD:
  3. Will agree to continue working toward a solution, possibly choosing a working group (or several) to continue the process. Those entities that can will agree to a financial commitment.”


We agree that a solution to this issue is critical to public safety. Our districts have been active and public supporters of past tax measures to provide additional income to the fire district. Be that as it may, the expectation that local public school districts would finance a fire district is misguided, inappropriate and illegal.

  • The fire district is not underfunded because school districts are overfunded. The fire district is underfunded because countywide tax revenue sharing amongst fire districts has not kept up with population changes. East County was small in 1978 when Proposition 13 became law and the percentage allocations were set. The numbers cited in your letter state that East Contra Costa County Fire Protection receives approximately $106 in property tax funding per resident while San Ramon and Moraga/Orinda receive $349 and $366 per resident respectively. In terms of splitting the total percentage of property tax revenue for fire districts, East Contra Costa County Fire Protection receives 7.5%, while the average within the county is 12%. Other county fire districts exemplify this ongoing disproportionality including: Kensington – 30%, MoragaOrinda – 21%; San Ramon – 15%; and Confire – 14%. To somehow conflate a relationship between local fire funding and public school funding is misleading and irresponsible. School district funding is legislated at the state level and has no impact on fire district funding. The imbalance in funding that exists is amongst and between the fire districts.

 

  • Following the passage of Proposition 13, the state of California has consistently ranked in the lowest 20 percent nationally in per pupil funding. As an example, New York Schools get more than $10,000 per student each year than schools in California. Similar to the fire district, not all school districts in a geographic area receive the same amount of funds. The majority of our districts in East Contra Costa County receive much less funding per student than the average school district in California. Similar to the East County Fire District, most of our school districts are amongst the lowest funded in the bay area. The transfer of funds that you are asking for would force immediate reductions to student programs and staff at each of our school districts.

 

  • The transfer is illegal.
    California Revenue Tax Code – Section 5 Article 99
    ARTICLE 5. JURISDICTIONAL CHANGES AND NEGOTIATED TRANSFERS
    99.02. Computations for transfer of revenues between local agencies.
    (f) No local agency shall transfer property tax revenue pursuant to this section unless each of the following conditions exists:
    (1) The transferring agency determines that revenues are available for this purpose.
    (2) The transfer will not result in any increase in the ratio between the amount of revenues of the transferring agency that are generated by regulatory licenses, use charges, user fees, or assessments and the amount of revenues of the transferring agency used to finance services provided by the transferring agency.
    (3) The transfer will not impair the ability of the transferring agency to provide existing services.
    (4) The transfer will not result in a reduction of property tax revenues to school entities.

As time is of the essence in solving this public safety crisis, we want to unequivocally state now that public school funds are not appropriate for this endeavor. Rather than wait until February 23rd to express that this proposal is nonviable, we believe it is critical to start work towards a more appropriate and viable solution immediately.

Sincerely,

Far East County School Superintendents

Stephanie Anello, Superintendent, Antioch Unified School District
Dana Eaton, Superintendent, Brentwood Union School District
Theresa Estrada, Superintendent, Knightsen School District
Debbie Gold, Superintendent, Byron Union School District
Greg Hetrick, Superintendent, Oakley Union School District
Eric Volta, Superintendent, Liberty Union High School District


On Sunday, a letter was issued by ECV stating they have invited 22 government entities to a workshop called “Fire District Funding Workshop”—a meeting they say is closed to the public. The purpose of the workshop is to facilitate an understanding of the public safety risks present, and to discuss specific methods of solving the structural funding problem at the heart of the crisis.

At this meeting, they have stated Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo will speak on the impact of catastrophic disaster on a community.  The Ghost Ship fire, where 36 people died, occurred in Gallo’s Oakland district.

According to the Discovery Bay Community Services District Agenda Packet, they received a letter from ECV highlighting the forum will be located in the Summerset IV Clubhouse from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

The letter closes with goals which appear to be demands by agencies who may attend:

  1. Will understand and agree on the fire districts current funding crisis;
  2. Agree that their organization will be a participant in the solution to the crisis, and will understand the procedural mechanics of transferring property tax or operating funds to ECCFPD;
  3. Will agree to continue working towards a solution, possibly choosing a working group (or several) to continue the process. Those entities that can will agree to a financial commitment.

According to a chart provided in the same CSD Document, here is a look at what some agencies would pay to ECCFPD under the ECV Plan to “voluntary funding” to give up 5.2% of their funding.

  • Antioch Unified – $110,000
  • BART – $62,600
  • Brentwood Elementary – $644,214.53
  • Brentwood Recreation & Parks – $111,500
  • Byron Elementary – $168,592
  • City of Brentwood – $543,729
  • City of Oakley – $133,664
  • Contra Costa Community College District – $457,074
  • County General Fund – $1,041,693
  • County Library – $147,944
  • Liberty High – $1,361,463
  • Oakley Elementary – $301,373
  • Town of Discovery Bay – $31,153

To date, none of the near 30 agencies have agreed to voluntarily give up funding.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. While the statement that because the fire district is underfunded the schools are over funded is a semantics game of words. When the property tax was divided some got more than others as it relates to tax income. All districts are underfunded if you ask them. The ECCFD was short changed by the county when it became independent. No tax transfer negotiations took place that I know as they did when Oakley incorporated. There should have been a negotiation. Aparantly the supervisor and LAFCO skippped that important part of the process. When it comes to Schools, Item #4 of the statue cited appears to place Schools off limits to tax fund transfers as it would reduce their tax revenue income. The rest of the districts, county, and cities could be fair game to participate with voter approval.

    • TFDEC- Its your statement that is a game of words. It’s funny how hyperbole works when trying to disguise denial.

      The ECCFPD was not even close to being “short changed” by the County. They were given an 11 million dollar parting gift. Place blame where it is deserved, on the fire board who spent down that 11 million dollars, hired an “interm” chief that hasn’t proven to be up to the task, and didn’t follow directives placed on them by LAFCO.

      You must have missed that “important part of the process”. I’m thinking that History is not your thing.

      No district has “extra money” nor can taxes be shared amongst taxing agencies. It’s the law.

      Stop chasing unicorns and rainbows and get on with a realistic solution.

  2. I’m sorry but how much clearer does it have to be made for these guys? They have been told this over and over. They are now showing just how ignorant they are.

  3. Maybe now this ECV Group will go away and try something new. How many times do people have to tell them their plan is illegal and no one is going to give up funding. Good for the school districts making it clear, something the Fire Board has failed to do.

  4. Until the Board of Directors are elected officials specifically for the Fire District they will not be trusted. They each are appointed by their City or The County and represent that entities interest. ELECT the DIRECTORS and hold them accountable to the Fire District. (Build Trust)

  5. The board has decided to make the election at the end of 2018. We have two more years of distrust and disfuction. I wonder if they will spend more money to ask us for more money sooner than 2 years.

Comments are closed.