Measure S, the new tax proposed for Fire Suppression in the East County Consolidated Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) is a cloak to pay down already incurred debt and duplicate already received services. After reading an article in Sunday’s Contra Costa Times about Moraga Orinda Fire, it was time to join the apposed against measure S. It is time to bring out the real truth about this wasteful new tax.
The article written by Carol Penskar titled; “Moraga-Orinda Fire District not acting in residents’ best interest” is so similar to what is happening in ECCFPD. The difference is, Moraga Orinda has the highest revenue per unit of all the fire districts in the region, yet it still is underwater in debt.
ECCFPD is also underwater in debt to the amount of eleven million dollars. ECCFPD is headed down the same bottomless pit as Moraga-Orinda unless it makes some real management decisions to head off the inevitable.
Sadly, this new tax will only delay the inevitable unless the real problem is corrected first. The ECCFPD measure will only buy the debt down in the fifth year to the goal of 85%. That’s not enough because there will continue to be 15% negative spending annually until we reach the very same situation we are currently in today.
In addition, Measure S takes money that could be applied to that 15% underfunded pensions, but instead it will apply the new tax dollars to another venture. That venture is paramedic service that we already are receiving through another agency.
These two examples alone show that the money asked for will not be applied to truly correct what the measure states is wrong, but rather increases the duties and costs of fire at our expense while continuing to go further in debt.
The eleven million dollars in debt did not happen overnight. The Board of Supervisors along with the Commission needed to address a real 100% correction first before expanding prematurely into added services already provided. The correction of these two issues are between the union and the BOS. This correction should be done first before asking the public for more money.
Both the BOS and the commission have done nothing but put their hand out for more tax money that will not correct the issue of continued pension debt. The costs continue in the red after 5 years and will remain digging the debt 15% deeper annually until fixed or come back and ask for a new tax again and again. This tells me that “ECCFPD is not acting in the “best interest of its residents”.
Voting No on S will send a message to correct the root problem first (pension debt and duplication of service) before asking us to invest more. The way it’s written will not correct the revenue problem but rather delay it a few years down the road. No on Measure S.
~ John Gonzales of Knightsen, is Former Fire Commissioner of Oakley Fire Protection District, and Former East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Transition Commission.