Brentwood: Karen Rarey Responds to ECV Over Fire Response Idea

By Karen Rarey

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The following was written by Brentwood City Councilwoman Karen Rarey

I want to first applaud Mr. Scott and ECV for their efforts to try and resolve the lack of fire protection services in East County. On the surface, the proposed Brentwood Emergency Response for All Initiative appears to be a no brainer – increase fire protection without increasing taxes – Who wouldn’t want to do this?

But when you peel back the layers of the Initiative, there are many facets of the Initiative that Mr. Scott fails to bring to light, glosses over or misconstrues.

ECV‘s Initiative focuses solely on making Brentwood pay to increase fire protection services, yet the city of Brentwood represents only 15 square miles of ECCFPD’s 249 square mile district AND is also only one of nearly 20 local agencies (https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/6581/Where-Your-Taxes-Go) which receive funding from your annual 1% of Property Tax. Yet, Mr. Scott focuses only on Brentwood to supplement the fire district’s funding.

As we recently saw, when County open space areas (within the fire district) catch on fire more resources are needed over a longer period of time to put out the fires. Yet, Mr. Scott is only asking Brentwood to fund increases to those fire services.

The stark reality is that the East County Voters’ Brentwood Emergency Response for All Initiative would not fully fund a full fire engine company until YEAR SEVEN if the initiative were implemented. And that is IF AND ONLY IF the City sees “tax revenue growth” in each and every one of those seven years.

Mr. Scott says that we ignored his request to put the ECV Initiative on the ballot. That is NOT true. At our April 28, 2020, we addressed Bryan Scott regarding his proposed Brentwood Emergency Response for All Initiative during the receipt of the 9212 Report agenda item. At that time, we explained our reasons why we weren’t going to place it on the ballot.

In short, the next 2 years are good examples of why the ECV Initiative DOESN’T just take “new tax growth” into consideration.

Based on the initiative, for example, revenues can drop by 10% in a given year and then rebound by 3% in the next year. Based on the wording in the initiative, the City is allowed to forgo funding in the year with a 10% reduction but must provide funding in the next year when revenues increase by 3%.

Therefore, the statement that funding for this new appropriation will come from “new tax revenue growth” is NOT necessarily ACCURATE. In this example, the City would have to fund the new ECV appropriation even though revenue levels are lower than they were previously.

This Fiscal Year (2020/21) due to COVID-19, the City will experience an estimated $4.1M deficit (10.8% deficit) and in FY 2021/22 a $4.7M deficit. In this case, any growth over the previous year would go first to fund the percentage called for in the Initiative, not to the City services cut due to the deficit.

Depending on how significant the initial drop in revenues are or how severe a recession is, any increase will always go to fund the Initiative first before restoring City services. Which could mean that the City would have to put its own tax initiative on a ballot to fund those cut services (police, parks, recreation programs, social services, etc).

Given the economic outlook, even if the 2.5% trigger is reached, because of the unlikely increases in sales and property taxes revenues, other funding from grants, service charges, investment earnings, motor vehicle taxes, transient occupancy tax (TOT) and franchise fees will still likely be lower than expected.

The initiative focuses only on property and sales taxes and assumes steady growth, but it ignores other revenue sources (and their sensitivity to the economy) that support services provided by the General Fund.

Also, as stated by both ECCFPD and Fire Fighters Local 1230, since there is NO guarantee that the funding will be available each year as a sustainable source of revenue, it makes it difficult for the Fire District to increase staffing levels and/or retain staff due to the fact that there would be no job security. The lack of job security is because the ECV INITIATIVE is predicated solely on a funding revenue source that is NOT guaranteed.

Mr. Scott claims that the City has done nothing to improve fire protection services, which again is NOT ACCURATE. In 2018, I called for all new development to have annual fire-specific Community Facility District (CFD) assessments and increased Fire Development Impact Fees (DIF).

In 2019, in conjunction with ECCFPD (based on its adopted 2019-2023 Strategic Plan), Brentwood STOPPED THE HEMORRAGING the district was experiencing due to growth by giving ECCFPD a seat at the table through the implementation of CFDs on all new development, as well as adopting increased DIFs in 2020.

What that means is that those annual district-wide CFD assessments and one-time DIFs on “NEW” development will NOT ONLY “FUND” THE ONGOING COSTS TO STAFF 3 “NEW” FIRE STATIONS, but it will also fund the building of those 3 stations as new development comes online.

We can’t make new development pay for the deficit we are currently in, but we can make it pay for the impact it will have on the District – which we are! Had the County Supervisors set up district-wide CFDs when they formed ECCFPD back in 2002, the fire district would not be in the dire straits it is in now.

Despite a $4.1M budget deficit this year (and next), we continue to work diligently with ECCFPD’s Fire Ad Hoc committee to determine how the City can help to increase Fire Protection Services. While we hope to bring some options to the Council sometime in September, those options (if adopted) will most likely result in severe cuts in city services.

By Karen Rarey
Brentwood City Council Member & Mayoral Candidate
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3 COMMENTS

  1. I think it would create more issues if only one of the three ( Brentwood, CCCounty, and Oakley ) were to implement anything separate to suppliment Fire. Any new funding should be done jointly. If only one (Say Brentwood) provided a supplemental fund it would surely create arguments with other two areas. This how the entire district was pushed together in the first place. There was a constant aid to Brentwood from Oakley. That situation created bad blood between everyone as one area seemed to take another areas funding in the form of mutual aid. It happens even today with Con Fire & ECCFPD. Threats from Con Fire holding back aid brings the issue full circle again twenty years later. Having Brentwood subsidize will continue the problem. I have suggested many times after noting the failure of county supervisors to demand facilities service districts in all development even prior to 2002. Even the previous Fire Chief wrote letters to our then Supervisor only to be ignored. That opportunity has lost eighteen years of revenue and all that future revenue forever. The people have spoken three times that a new parcel or property tax is not supported. However, a county wide sales tax would generate several million dollars. Again, this was suggested to Supervisors several years back for them to say No.They did put a sales tax increase up but for transportation (Bart, Roads, etc,)but no fire. It passed, they then went for a second increase with no fire on it. This just an increase in what was already passed. It failed. I think they (the Supervisors) should place a sales tax increase for all fire and prorate the funds to all the fire districts. Just One half of one cent could generate $ 80,000,000.00 million annually. ECCFPD would receive a decent amount of that. This entire problem should be solved by its creators (BOS) to make things right.

  2. Brentwood mayoral candidate ignores
    34.8% increase in 9-1-1 response time

    On Tuesday a mayoral candidate and City Council Member responded to criticism of local government’s lack of action on a public safety emergency (Facebook/Nextdoor posts, “Brentwood Council guilty of placing public at risk”) by publishing a lengthy response.

    Council Member Karen Rarey used a nearly thousand-word (960) Facebook post to attempt to explain why nothing has been done to improve emergency medical response services for Brentwood residents.

    In the Monthly Operating Report from East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, the July “90% Response Time” for Brentwood East went up 34.8%, compared last July. (10:12 min. to 13:45 min.) Brentwood West went up just 3.6%. (10:55 minutes to 11:19 minutes)

    As a whole, the entire District’s “90% Response Time” went up 27.1% over the same time period. (11:41 min to 14:51 min.)

    Council Member Rarey cited jurisdictional constraints, the economic impact from the Covid-19 pandemic, and other government concerns as justification for allowing residents to receive inadequate emergency services that include response times that are nearly four times the goals stated in the Brentwood General Plan.

    She cited defects in a grass-roots voter initiative, the “Brentwood Emergency Response for All Initiative,” as justification for the City Council’s inaction, ignoring the fact that as a local government legislative body the City Council has a California Constitutional mandate to provide for the safety of Brentwood citizens.

    The “Brentwood Emergency Response for All Initiative” failed to reach the November ballot when County health orders, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, prevented the gathering of petition signatures. The Initiative was filed with the City Clerk in January.

    The City Council had the ability earlier this year to place the initiative on the ballot without signatures, place its own initiative on the ballot, or pass an ordinance to address the public safety emergency. The City Council took none of these actions.

    The public safety emergency Brentwood residents face continues to escalate, with response times increasing monthly.

    Incumbent politicians should not be rewarded for their failure to act, for not addressing a well-known, well-studied, and well-documented issue, an issue that has the potential to affect the life of each and every city resident.

    https://www.eccfpd.org/monthly-operational-reports
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    ​​​​​​​# # #

    ​​​​ “East County Voters for Equal Protection” is a non-partisan grass roots citizens’ action committee formed to address the issue of unequal funding of fire and emergency medical services existing in 249 square miles of Eastern Contra Costa County. About 120,000 residents, as well as those who work and play in Eastern Contra Costa, have services funded at a level one-fourth to one-third of those levels in other parts of Contra Costa County. For more information contact committee Chair Bryan Scott [email protected]. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/ and the website is https://eastcountyvoters.com/ FPPC – 147914
    East County Voters for Equal Protection
    1300 Crescent Dr.
    Brentwood, CA 94513
    925-418-4428

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  3. The main point here is that the Brentwood City Council voted 5-0 NOT to put some version of Emergency Response For All Initiative on the November 3 ballot FOR VOTERS TO DECIDE. This was after listening to many compelling and excellent reasons for such a vote. These intelligent opinions were expressed by various speakers at city council meetings. Many of them “do emergency” as a professional career, and some are retired emergency response service providers. There was also a general hope that The Initiative would have motivated the city council to do something about the fire / emergency issue other than raise taxes or simply dismiss it. We all know something needs to be done. We all know the allocation of the property tax money is unfair. As others have pointed out: it would be unfair to double-tax residents for what they already pay for that is going to other entities. The Initiative was an attempt to correct that injustice. If a council member believed it wasn’t a perfect initiative, it was then imperative to come up with a solution that’s fair to all. That SOLUTION should have been VOTE to put some version of The Initiative on the BALLOT FOR VOTERS TO DECIDE!

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