The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board is expected to vote to move forward with its Benefit Assessment Tax during tonight’s Board Meeting.
If you go:
Monday March 2, 2015 at 6:30 pm
3231 Main Street, Oakley
Oakley City Council Chambers
The District will first approve the Revised Engineers Report and Resolutions for the proposed assessment and the assessment ballot proceeding that will give property owners in the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) the ability to decide on the proposed assessments and proposed services to be funded.
Last August, the District approved its first resolution to move forward with a tax. A month later, the Board discovered an error in its calculations and cancelled the ballot. In November, the Board voted to move forward with a second attempt using updated data.
Under the updated calculations, the District will raise $4.27 million in added revenue to ensure the downtown Brentwood Station re-opens and the Knightsen Station stays open. The District says 93% of the District would pay $104 per parcel while other types of improved property around $175 while other large parcels $250 or more.
According to the Staff Report:
The Engineer’s Report describes a baseline level of services that will exist in ECCFPD, absent a new revenue source and the associated enhanced fire protection and suppression services to be funded by the proposed assessments. In summary, ECCFPD is currently maintaining an unsustainable level of fire protection and emergency response services by using up its reserve funds.
Absent a new assessment or alternative revenue source for ECCFPD, the Fire Chief has recommended that significant additional cuts to current fire protection and emergency response services will be needed to bring operational costs in line with current revenues. These additional cuts would include the permanent closure of the temporarily closed Downtown Brentwood Fire Station, the closure of the Knightsen Fire Station and the elimination of 18 additional firefighter positions.
This level of additional cuts would bring costs down to reflect current revenues and leave 9 firefighters on duty at any given time to serve all of ECCFPD (down from 15). This would materially reduce the level of service in East County, could cause response times for fires and other emergencies to double and could result in times when no fire or emergency medical responses can be provided.
The proposed assessments would tangibly and directly benefit property in the Assessment District by providing for materially enhanced services over and above the baseline level of service summarized above. The proposed Assessments would generate approximately $4,257,818.17 per year, beginning in fiscal year 2015-16. If approved by property owners, the proposed Assessments would provide sufficient funding to prevent the permanent closure of up to 2 additional fire stations, prevent the elimination of the Cal-Fire contract for the Sunshine Station, increase firefighting staffing to approximately 54 positions from approximately 27 positions under the baseline level of services, provide 3 firefighters per engine 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 5 ECCFPD stations plus 1 Cal-Fire station, fund a portion of the EBRCSA emergency response system, and make needed repairs and upgrades to fire equipment and facilities.
The annual assessment needed to fund this amount of enhanced fire protection and suppression services varies by parcel. However, for 93% of 1 & 2 family residential parcels, the annual assessment is less than $104. Other types of property would be assessed primarily based on building area, relative risk of fire and potential fire damage. The annual assessment for most other types of improved property (largely commercial properties) is less than $175. There are some very large parcels and service stations with an annual assessment greater than $250.
Monday night, the Board will consider and approve four document:
- The updated Engineer’s Report for the proposed “East County Emergency Fire Response and Prevention Assessment” (the “Assessment District”). The document may be viewed by clicking here. http://www.eccfpd.org/assets/documents/RevisedPreliminaryEngineersReportFY2015-16_000.pdf
- A Resolution declaring intention to establish the Assessment District, levy assessments, and preliminarily approving the Engineer’s Report
- A Resolution providing notice of a public hearing and directing the mailing of the assessment ballots on the matter of authorizing the levy of annual assessments on properties within the district
- A Resolution adopting updated procedures for completion, return and tabulation of assessment ballots in accordance with Proposition 218
Once ballots are mailed out and submitted, a public hearing will be held on April 27, 2015 at 10:00 am at the Oakley City Council Chambers (3231 Main Street)to determine public interest. The Board will then make the final decision to move forward with the assessment.
How Benefit Assessment Voting Works
Under a Benefit Assessment, the District gets an advantage versus holding this vote on a traditional ballot as ballots are mailed out and either not returned or thrown in the garbage. Although not counted, the general rule of thumb in this situation is a “did not vote” ballot is essentially considered a “yes vote”.
Unless a majority of votes (50% + 1), weighted based on assessment amount, protests enactment of an assessment, the governing body may move forward.
But here is how the process works:
Local officials must mail to all affected property owners, a ballot to vote for or against the proposed assessment, and a notice containing the date, time, and place of the public hearing at which ballots will be counted, as well as specific information about the proposed benefit assessment. This information must include the purpose of the benefit assessment, the amount that would be charged to the owner’s parcel, how that amount was calculated, and the duration of the payments.
The ballot must carry the agency’s address or include a self-addressed envelope so that property owners can return their ballots by mail.
Ballots are weighted by the amount each property owner is to pay, with those paying more getting a larger share of the vote. In other words, the ballots are weighted in proportion to the amount of benefit each property receives from the benefit assessment. This means that a property owner that receives twice the benefit of another property owner would pay twice the assessment. ‘
The property owner paying twice as much would also have their vote count twice as much.
If the votes cast determine that the weighted majority of the voting property owners are against the assessment, then local officials must abandon the assessment.
If the assessment passes, local officials can still modify the plan in response to public comment. However, if substantial modifications are made to the assessment plan upon which landowners cast their vote, a new election may be required. The local agency cannot increase an assessment after the property owners approve it except as provided in the original assessment proposal.