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Fire district at risk of losing 75 percent of operating funds

Samantha P. Hawthorne
Staff Writer
01/10/14
 

There has been some confusion regarding Peninsula Fire Protection District’s latest attempts at passing a new special tax assessment. 

The current assessment, which has been active for about seven years, will expire June 30 if a new assessment is not passed. According to the district, it could mean that the district will have no money to operate with. 

Since Measure B failed to pass by only 15 votes in November 2013, the district decided to hold a special election for Measure A, requesting the same amount from district residents that was originally requested.

If passed, Measure A will increase taxes for residents within the district’s boundaries by $98 as of July 1. Annual taxes are currently set at $187 – $197 depending on parcel type, and would increase to $280 – $295 if Measure A passes. The tax would continue for three years, expiring June 30, 2017, at which time a new assessment would be requested. 

The measure is not simply a request to increase the tax, but rather is a request to replace the expiring tax. If it does not pass, PFPD will no longer have a special tax to operate with. 

The special tax contributes 75 percent of the district’s budget and provides residents with services such as medical aid, response to service calls and complaints, fire control, public assistance, hazardous materials coverage, auto accident response and water rescue.

PFPD receives 1 percent of property tax collected from the district’s 3,400 parcels, the amount of which is declining every year. This contributes to one-fourth of the district’s current operating and maintenance costs. 

In addition, none of the monies collected through the California state fire protection fee goes back into the district. Plumas County residents receive no benefit from the “CalFire fee” because there is not a single CalFire station within the county.

If Measure A does not pass, the district said it will be unable to operate efficiently, and residents should expect increased response times in the case of an emergency. PFPD’s medical response time is currently 5 minutes; but without a special tax assessment to sustain the district, ambulance crews will be traveling from either Chester or Westwood and response times will increase to 30 to 45 minutes.

District secretary Holly Coons said, “If we don’t pass this measure then we will have no funds to pay our bills and our staff, and operate our ambulance and fire engines. Over 20 people could be laid off, including me.” 

This would leave the district with only one paid fire staffer on duty every day, no staff operating the office of emergency services fire truck, and no one to conduct lot inspections or respond to situations requiring water rescue. It will also cause delays in service calls and public assists.

Fire Chief Gary Pini said, “Our current special assessment expires June 30. If this does not pass, we will have no money coming in after June 30. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it: the tax assessment that has been active for the last six – seven years will stop and there will be no funds after June 30 if the measure does not pass.”

Information brochures are being mailed out to district residents Feb. 3 and again in the beginning of March. Ballots will be mailed out March 10 and must be returned via mail by April 4 in order to be considered valid.

Questions should be directed to the Citizens’ Advisory Group by calling any of the numbers listed on the brochure. 

 


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