Home Opinion Letter: Fix Our Financially Failing Fire Districts County Wide

Letter: Fix Our Financially Failing Fire Districts County Wide

by ECT

Dear Editor,

I received a call last night from a survey company regarding a new proposed sales tax increase that the Contra Costa Transportation Commission is considering for an upcoming ballet. Everyone should know that one half of a cent sales tax already goes to the CCTC. They want to double it. The caller asked if I would support a new additional one half a cent on top of the already received one until 2039. I told the caller that I already pay one half percent and taxes on each gallon of gasoline are over fifty cents on top of that. I said I would rather spend the other added half penny sales tax to assist our fire districts.

Since I already voted yes for the original half cent I want to propose to everyone in Contra Costa County a solution to help all county our fire district by adding the other half a penny to them.  I would vote yes in a heartbeat for the half cent it to go to our Fire delivery services in Contra Costa.  As everyone has heard one way or another that the fire districts in this county are having serious financial problems. It also appears that parcel tax measures are not popular and have and will fail. However, consider a half cent sales tax measure county wide for fire delivery services.

If all the fire chiefs in Contra Costa got together to support a county wide solution along with every citizen and visitor to Contra Costa County , we could solve this issue with a halfpenny sales tax.

I would be willing to pay one half of one penny on sales tax because along with everyone else it would create about seventy five million dollars for our fire districts throughout the county.  So contact your representatives, politicians, mayors, and let’s get this critically important Fire Suppression and EMT/Paramedic delivery under control.

John A Gonzales

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Josh Mar 7, 2014 - 7:31 am

These continuous tax increases makes me buy everything online or out of state.

Reality Check Mar 7, 2014 - 7:34 am

I applaud someone for putting an idea out there which is better than a parcel tax but it could never happen as all the fire districts are special districts and not part of the county. A better question is without a merger, which District funds the tax? How do you break it down so each District gets their fair share?

Better off. Mar 7, 2014 - 8:54 am

That is great idea and one that would truly solve the problem. The fire service is a regional problem, they all depend on each other. From San Ramon,Orinda to Bethel Island and Byron. The engines move in a orchestrated fashion to assist where needed. All residents pay the same property taxes and deserve the same protection everywhere. I hope this idea can gain some momentum and move forward.

B-Wood Mar 7, 2014 - 9:41 am

Interesting idea. I’m not sure I would want any additional sales tax but at least it shows some outward thinking. Additional sales taxes can have a negative effect on local business as Josh states above. There also seems to be the issue of multiple fire agencies and it would remain to be seen how any revenue would be divided up and put to use where needed.
I would have to agree, I would not support another sales tax for transportation when we cannot afford to fund our emergency services throughout the county as it is. Has the author contacted any politicians to see if this is even viable?

J Bacher Mar 7, 2014 - 9:47 am

It seems that every district wants a parcel tax or sales tax added so they can keep spending the way they do. I would really be nice if I could add a sales tax so my income would be raised. It’s not that I’m against an increase, but just like mentioned in the article a increase was granted and now they want to come back for more. It’s like I would tell my kids learn to save your money and when you do spend, spend wisely. These districts can not keep going back to the voters because they have mismanaged their budgets.

Bus Driver Mar 7, 2014 - 10:59 am

How about we just turn those tri delta transit buses that drive around empty all day into fire engines. That would kill two birds with one stone, and the firefighters might have an extra set of hands to help.
We go everywhere man, we go everywhere.

Better off. Mar 7, 2014 - 11:08 am

J backer.
The east contra costa firefighters are the lowest paid in the entire Bay Area. They contribute the highest rate legally allowed by law into their retirement. There is no waste, excessive spending, or middle management. Other areas are more fortunate with their tax base and value of property. Everything that can be done here already has been. Please read up and educate yourself. How can you say the district has not managed itself. There is nothing left to cut. Everything costs more now, do expect your fire service here to run on a budget set in 1970.

Seriously Mar 7, 2014 - 11:21 am

Why not divert one half of one penny already collected. Why is there a need to add a percent?

For why Mar 7, 2014 - 1:02 pm

Seriously, jerry needs these pennies for his tunnels & trains. He won’t let us use it for safety & protection.

Taxed Man Mar 7, 2014 - 2:21 pm


I’m not really in favor of more taxes, but I suppose it does make sense to collect EMS funds from a county wide sales tax that everyone pays into. …Same way it makes sense for fire protection services to rely on property taxes from property owners since property is generally what catches fire.

With the sales tax, people who spend more will pay more money into the EMS system which is reasonable because they can better afford it. People who buy less will pay less, which is good.

I don’t like tax increases, but this almost makes sense…

Good Idea John!

Sheldon Mar 7, 2014 - 10:01 pm

EMS system? There is no issue with the county EMS system or its funding. You really think anyone in their right mind is going to support a tax that has no purpose when you cant get the east county tightwads to spare a nickel for the firedepartment? Does anyone here even know what the hell they are talking about?????

You people are bananas. Seriously.

Buy a Clue Mar 9, 2014 - 3:24 pm

I won’t get into this too deep because John will whine that I’m picking on him.

I was scratching my head on why, when you call it a parcel tax, everyone is up in arms. But you call it a sales tax and the very same people are on board.

Then it came to me. This is a regressive tax. It shifts the burden from property owners onto the backs of the poor in an inequitable manner. All sales taxes are regressive, so this is not news. Where it gets insulting is when a property owner with multiple APNs is pushing a solution that ends up looking self-serving. The CoCo Taxpayers Ass. is a prime example of that with big corporate interests using paid lobbyist proxies. Hope that’s not the case here. How many lots do you own, John?

That being said it’s still worth discussing. Putting an idea forward is good. Putting an idea forward that you actually researched to see if a)it’s viable and b)it’s legal would be even better.

Tax districts bring with them a new layer of bureaucracy to make sure the collection and distribution is done properly. Make sure there aren’t Prop 218 violations, etc. That should be acknowledged as well. It’s not likely to be a be-all, end-all answer and if it’s just a disguise of subsidizing this District that fact will come out and it will fail.

But even that is getting way ahead of ourselves. You have to sell this to 2/3 of the voters. If one is living in San Ramon, Richmond or Kensington, for example, there is little belief that a new tax to support the fire district is needed. Add that to the fact that you’re shifting the burden to the poor and I don’t see this clearing the fence.

Could be wrong, but even popular local school bonds only clear the higher threshold rarely. This broad an issue put before many people who won’t see the need is going to have trouble.

Chuck Mar 11, 2014 - 5:59 pm

Hey there, what head were you scratching? The reason I say this is because a sales tax would hit the poor far less than a property parcel tax. A parcel tax would jack up the rent to a poor family. Poor families do not usually purchase big ticket items such as new cars and boats.It is very obvious the sales tax would be burdened according to the persons spending ability.Then again we can always resort back to what we have been doing. The guy was just putting out an idea. Think about one expensive boat sale that is actually a luxury item. It would bring ten years of this so called parcel tax in one transaction. A parcel tax would be passed to poor families renting. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution.Sounds to me from the article that the CC transportation is going for the money. Double the transportation sales tax or support a new fire sales tax. You decide or do nothing.

Buy a Clue Mar 11, 2014 - 10:34 pm

Chuck, are you actually going to try to argue against a concept that is widely accepted in economics? That being that sales taxes are regressive?

Creating our own new reality, are we?


The angle that property taxes are purely a pass through is patently false, as the property owner can take advantage of the writeoff. Sales taxes and property taxes make up about equal amounts, contribution wise, to the tax rolls locally. Obviously a parcel tax is more proportionately going to impact higher income folks who on average pay about 1/2 the effective rate. Forget discussing marginal rates. That’s a ruse tactic commonly used by the Howard Jarvis mentality.


Perhaps you can address some of the questions previously expressed? How does one manage this new tax behemoth? How does one avoid Prop 218 landmines? If you’re planning to tax the folks in Richmond for a benefit to be parlayed in East County, you’ll probably find yourself in court. The Calif Supreme Court handed down precedent on this just a couple of years ago.

I notice in another blog you had a nice little chat with some of your friends over the hill. Have they figured out yet that in a consolidation scenario that they will be effectively subsidizing you? That is assuming you live in an ECCFPD serviced area. Think ole Pete or Bill have connected the dots on that one yet?

The fact that just spouting ideas without any qualification or research impresses you is duly noted. I prefer a little better long game myself.

Kacey Mar 20, 2014 - 4:02 pm

Funny that no one here has even dared to mention that the fire fighters restructure their benefits and pension plans. That’s what US taxpayers have to do when we are faced with these situations. We have to figure out where we can make cuts in our budget in order to survive. ANY business has to do the same thing when the money being spent excedes the money brought in.
The fire fighters need to realize that WE are all in the same boat here! Taxpayers are hurting BADLY too, and guess what? You’re not the only public entity that is proposing additional property taxes. The schools in CCC will have yet another 30 yr bond on the ballet. I already have 4 thirty year bonds on my property taxes! How can they need more money?
Sorry guys, you need to figure this out and work within your means. Tired of public entities always crying poor. Yes, you’re poor, at managing your finances!
Any additional taxes will force me out of my home as I am barely able to make my mortgage payment because of my income and healthcare changes. And yet you want me to pay more and lose my home in order for you to keep your income and benefits (which are pretty darn good I might add) and more than likely keep you comfortable in your home? How about the public services start being responsible to the people that pay their wages…
Don’t bother giving me the song and dance about the risks/dangers of the job. Yes, I know that and I appreciate what they do….BUT, it’s not like fire fighters aren’t aware of that before hand. Just like police officers. It’s a job you chose and the taxpayers are your employers…not your money tree.
I am not ungrateful, just tired of working to sustain an unaccountable and over bloated government!
I will not vote for ANY new taxes in any form.

Buy a Clue Mar 20, 2014 - 8:34 pm

Kacey, you are going to get what you asked for. The “living within their means” line is what equals 3 stations for ECCFPD. That’s year one. In a couple of more years it will be more like 2.5 and then 2.

If you think the fire district hasn’t taken wage, benefits and pensions concessions then you just haven’t been paying attention.

Do you even know what fire fighters in the District make or are you just guessing?

Finally, I hate to bust this to you, but your property taxes are going up by an amount about equal to the proposed tax just due to recovering property values. Looks like you’re out on the street.

Oh, and to your comparison to private sector business, when revenue declines and costs continue. Yes they have to make adjustments like laying off people and closing locations. They don’t just keep selling you goods or services at prices less than what it costs to provide them……………just like the fire department will be doing when they close stations in November.

ECV Mar 20, 2014 - 9:04 pm


There is a saying: “Stupid Should Hurt”.

It must, because reading your comment was painful.

Are people here really that dumbed down or is this another prime example of purposeful ignorance?

I really wonder.

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