Task Force Set To Present “End All” Solution for East Contra Costa Fire

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May 1 Fire in Knightsen, CA

On Monday, Brentwood City Manager Gus Vina will present a Task Force recommendation on a potential plan to move the cash strapped East Contra Costa Fire Protection District from its current state of 3-stations to a 9-station model which includes 81 fire personnel.

The plan is neither simple, nor cheap and upon first review there is some sticker shock; however it aims to finally solves a decade long problem of how to appropriately fund the fire district before the District dissolves.

Should the District dissolve, the cities of Brentwood and Oakley would be required by state law to provide fire service, a bill neither city manager wants to pay. Unincorporated Contra Costa is not required to provide fire service.

For example, should the ECCFPD dissolve, according to the recent draft MSR, the City of Brentwood would have to come up with $11 million annually for fire services. To bridge the gap, it’s estimated each household in Brentwood would be forced to pay a $315 annual tax. In Oakley, it would have to come up with nearly $7 million.

Being tabbed as the “end all” solution, the Task Force proposal would raise an estimated $16 million annually in new funds through a Utility Users Tax (UUT) on cable, electricity and cell phone. This means a percentage of each bill will be taxed and then applied to public safety. The UUT only needs a 50% + 1 approval to pass.

ECCFPDFlyer3Each jurisdiction, in this case, the City of Brentwood, City of Oakley, and unincorporated Contra Costa would have its own UUT on the ballot to determine its own needs for fire and medical services.

According to Gus Vina, he does not need the fire board’s approval to push this plan forward, the City of Brentwood, City of Oakley and the County can agree to place it on the ballot. It would also mean each area would get a chance to approve the measure.

If Brentwood approves the plan, they would now have funds for four-stations. If Oakley approves it, they would get three stations. If the unincorporated areas of the county approve it, they get have two-stations in Discovery Bay.

Note – the county portion would apply to all unincorporated Contra Costa with funds going specific into their local fire departments.

In total, the UUT would ensure that East Contra Costa Fire would meet the recommendations of Citygate and the latest draft MSR suggesting a 9-10 station fire district model is needed for not only today’s population, but anticipated future growth.

According to Vina, Monday’s presentation is informational with no action required by the fire board.

Gus Vina“The District is very limited in what they can tax; they do not have the authority as a special district. So we had to find a different way to do that. So what we have come up with is Brentwood, Oakley, and the County would each have a measure for UUT,” explained Vina. “Already a couple times, Brentwood has been dragged down because other communities have said no. This is a public safety measure with a list of projects and priorities to fund. It takes care of East County and provides the county with additional money. The money is being used to implement the Master Plan.”

Vina explained what happens if one area approves its UUT and another does not.

“Hypothetically, if Brentwood passes a UUT and no one else does, Brentwood would have the resources to have a four-station model. My council is able to say to its residents we have the resources to provide you with a four-minute response time to take care of you,” explained Vina. “The stations would still be under East Contra Costa Fire and respond to other parts of the District because you can’t build a wall around Brentwood. If you’re in the system, they respond.”

Vina highlighted that if Brentwood and Oakley approve the UUT and the county does not; then their times will not increase because they do not have the stations available near them. Engines would still be coming from Brentwood or Oakley. With a Brentwood and Oakley approval, the District becomes 8-stations.

“There would be more engines in the system, but travel time doesn’t change. This gets us the resource required to ensure the District is sufficient for the population and anticipated growth,” said Vina.

Vina noted the plan by the Task Force solution solves the problem once and for all because it doesn’t limit the District to just five-stations as proposed through a reallocation plan by the East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECV).

He explained that the plan being proposed by Hal Bray, Bryan Scott and a modified plan by Oakley Councilman and County Supervisor Candidate Doug Hardcastle only continues to kick the can down the road because it’s a band aid and does not fix the problem.  He called their plan unfair to Contra Costa County Fire (CONFIRE) taxpayers because it ensures ECCFPD to be supplemented through CONFIRE with engines continuing to respond to ECCFPD calls creating longer response times.

Vina says under the MOU of a UUT agreement, there will be strict language to ensure community protection on station openings based on where the voters approved the UUT.

IMG_3197“The District itself could not supplant stations and could not take UUT money and apply it to another community to open a station. Each jurisdiction has to live with its decision meaning we can’t take Brentwood money if approved and Oakley does not pass and use Brentwood money to open a station in Oakley,” explained Vina.

 

Vina noted that in terms of cost, they are working on polling to be performed later this month to determine just what percentage will be used—either a 3%, 7% or 10% tax. He also noted it’s impossible to determine what someone will actually pay because everyone has a different service plan for cell phones and cable while no one household uses the same amount of gas or electric.

Vina did say that if you have a $100 phone bill and the UUT is 10%, it would cost you $10 a month to fire service. If you’re a family of five and your phone bill is $500, then the UUT is $50 per month.

He noted that if the polling is bad, they will not move forward but says the public will understand the actual cost as it applies to them when they have the formula decided.

“I have always encouraged honesty and if 15% of the people support this, we are not going to go forward, that is ridiculous. If we are near 50%, we are off and running to give this a chance,” said Vina.

He pointed out that in the past; it’s always been a financial decision that ruled the conversation versus actually finding a solution. He says it’s time to change the conversation.

February Fire in Oakley
February Fire in Oakley

“In the past, it was always about keeping it under $100 so it will pass because it was all financial. But it never attempted to solve the problem. So let’s flip and change the conversation to level of service and risk,” explained Vina. “If as a voter you accept 3-stations and the risk. Tell me. I disagree with the ECV and not asking the people, you should always ask the people. If they turn you down, they turn you down.”

Vina noted that according to their polling on Peak Democracy, although 46% wanted a form of reallocation as the solution, he says 53% wanted some sort of tax to help fund the District and he believes this plan will be best for everyone because the UUT is all relevant to everyone because it’s based on usage levels.

“53% of the public said they would support a tax,” said Vina. “If everybody supports, it solves the fire district going forward and we will grow into 9-stations. With more people coming in, we are covered. We set out to fix this once and for all.”

Vina further was critical of those suggesting unattainable plans and creating greater public confusion. He says all that does is kick the can down the road as ECV is suggesting. He contends the public is tired of band aids and the kicking of  the can down the road and instead finally are seeking a solution.

Station-54-Brentwood“You get to a point where service like fire is critical and doesn’t have the money. Period! You can’t have a no new tax or no tax agenda and expect government services of any kind. If that is truly how you feel, you’re not going to have any parks. Who is going to fix your streets? Who is going to patrol neighborhoods? Of course you have to have taxes, that is how it works,” says Vina. “Do we have to be responsible and accountable to that money, of course we do. We have to be mindful of the taxpayer, but that is where government has gone bad with the City of Bell, City of Stockton, and City of Vallejo. Those examples don’t help so you lose the trust of the public and it’s hard to gain the trust back.”

Vina stated that by reaching out to the public, they have opened up the doors to the public for feedback and conversation on a fire solution.

“We are aiming to fix the problem once and for all so every election people do not have to hear about a fire fix and tax again. We think we have found a solution that the public could support,” said Vina. “I want people to understand the 9-station model and what it does for them.”

If You Go:
Monday June 6, 2016
Special Meeting Time – 5:30 pm
Oakley City Hall at 3231 Main St, Oakley

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Pretty hair brained idea but if it works that’s great. The “End All Solution” is a lie though. Government always comes back for more money when they spend away the extra funds on top of the funds the receive from taxing the public. A better term would be just ” A Solution “. It does appear this tax is dependent on usage of other specific utilities. What if those other sources under generate? Re apportioning the existing tax revenue appears more stable and dependable. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

    • The reallocation plan is a BS plan because it only gets the District to 5 stations. Its a band aid. ECV are a bunch of anti-tax dopes who can’t seem to grasp the concept as even under their plan, they ensure a tax is needed to open 4 additional stations.

      Their numbers don’t work because they assume every District will volunteer to give up funds. As ECT has already reported, the plan is illegal per state law and county officials.

      • The ECV approach should make it possible to add three stations, after which if there is need for additional funding, ECV and CoCoTax will consider supporting it. As to the tax reallocation method being illegal, Senator Glazer has already promised he will carry legislation to authorize it, and that legislation is being drafted.
        BTW, CoCoTax has worked since 1937 advocating for taxpayers, and saved over $100 million in one action alone in the past five years. But we don’t do it by name-calling, or by inane rhetoric.
        Jack Weir

        • @Jack… from a county wide approach which ECV is suggesting, its illegal. Going to the state for legislation, that is where the focus should be to make it not illegal. Your plan should have always been focused at the state, not the county (in my opinion — Mike B).

        • Point to ANY service increase COCoTax has ever supported!? You all are the main drivers for mis information and service reduction. Of course everyone loves free services but you and yours have made a career of blaming the providers when the bill is due. CARPETBAGGERS. People in these communitis have suffered under your influence.
          Bring on your fake “concerned citizens” Wendy Lack Kris Hunt et al.
          It’s time to spin this about pensions and pay
          Pathetic

        • So let me get this straight “Jack”,

          The ECV “approach”, which for all intents and purposes, circumvents the very nature of Prop #13 and as you readily admit is “illegal”, should make it possible to add three stations.

          IF this is true, then……

          1. This approach would still have the district understaffed and under protected, and come at some kind of cost to the agencies (county, city, ??).
          2. What services will the county and cities have to cut to get us to the cost of three additional stations. I’m just a novice here, but this money doesn’t come from a Rich Uncle.
          3. Those other services that would have to be cut, matter to someone.
          4. Why is it “Jack” that your corporate interests disguised as a taxpayers association have an interest in east county fire? I;m told you yourself don’t live anywhere near the affected district. Would I be correct?
          5. Speaking of rhetoric “Jack” why don’t you give us some details on how CoCoTax has worked since 1937 and saved 100 million in one action in the last 5 years?
          6. Is CoCoTax a public entity or a private membership?

          If you could answer 6 questions “Jack” that would be helpful, I would appreciate you going lightly on the inane rhetoric with your provided answers.

          Thank you in advance.

  2. This is certainly an out of the box plan. I am curious what the numbers look like in how the plan raises $16 million. Don’t we already pay enough in taxes?

    • @FrankS

      The taxes you pay fund just 3 fire stations. Paying enough in taxes is relevant to how much service you want to have. You will never get to 9 stations on the current tax base… let alone 5 stations as a band aid. You need some form of revenue enhancement regardless of what certain proposals claim.

  3. I think this is great, we can finally get to 9 stations and put the issue behind us. This is the kind of plan that solves something, unlike Doug Hardcaslte and his group of malcontents who are fine with a band aid and never looking for a solution. Why no one should support Hardcastle, he doesn’t create solutions to anything.

    Heck of a job Gus Vina and the task force.

  4. This seems like a terrible idea. People will be nickel and dimed out of money for fire service they may or may not use. Would prefer to see them go with a parcel tax or benefit assessment where people can figure this out using real numbers. Why not sales tax like Measure C in Antioch?

    • Jim,
      This was suggested for a county wide sales tax for fire. Your Supervisors ( except Anderson ) want those sales taxes for doubling transportation taxes and not emergency services. The revenue on a half cent annual about 86 Million Dollars. So much for supporting fire.

  5. Finally we have a realistic idea! It seems expensive but at least now we have a great starting point. Now we have something to talk about. Great job Gus Vina. I am anxious to see how the polling turns out. Will you poll the whole district separately and equally?

  6. Before you know it we’ll be taxed to go to the bathroom. Is this the best they can do??? What a joke. I hope the pollsters call me.

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