Special election draws near

The city of Portola will have a special election June 6, placing a measure before voters in the city regarding a special tax to fund fire protection and emergency medical services. The election will be conducted via mail-in ballot, with ballots to be mailed out May 8.

This gives residents of the city a little over a month to consider the measure, which is formally titled the Special Tax for Fire Protection and Emergency Response and will appear on the ballot as Measure B.

The tax would support the Portola Volunteer Fire Department in its year-round, 24/7, service to the community. Portola Fire is currently supported financially in large part by the city to fill in budget shortfalls left by the fire tax that was established in 1984, 32 years ago.

The current fire tax for citizens of Portola at the residential tax rate comes out to $12.52 a year, an average of $1.04 a month in taxes. With a bare bones working budget of $90,000 annually, Portola Fire relies heavily on the city’s general fund to keep the wheels in motion.

The proposed tax would potentially allow the general fund monies usually spent on the fire department to then be reallocated towards other important infrastructure work in Portola, such as filling in potholes, maintaining parks, and generally working toward economic growth and maintaining the city.

Measure B proposes to raise the fire tax amount to $12.50 a month for residential lots, $18.75 a month for commercial lots and $6.25 a month for vacant land, which would override the previous tax.

This would bring the budget of Portola Fire to roughly $232,000 annually, and would make a large dent in bridging the deficit left by the old tax rates. In comparison, surrounding communities such as Gold Mountain and Graeagle pay $255.95 and $200 a year, respectively, on top of SRA (State Regulated Area) CalFire fees of $152.33 a year on improved parcels of land.

Acting Fire Chief Tom Tobener said, “This is something that we should all consider very seriously as members of the community. Every penny of the new tax would go to PVFD, not the city.”

The fire tax would potentially reduce the financial obligation of the city, so that city funds are not the primary source of financial assistance.

As the ballot draws closer, the Fire Department Citizens Working group chair Cal Patterson encourages discourse on the topic, and can provide more information at 386-3801 or  Calp3@att.net.

About Portola Volunteer Fire Department

PVFD was established in 1937.

Members of PVFD are volunteers.

PVFD responds to the following:

Structural fires

Medical aid calls

Vehicle accidents

Grass/brush fires

Wildland fires

Hazardous material incidents

PVFD provides mutual aid to surrounding departments.

Maintains and inspects fire hydrants.

Identifies weed abatement issues.

Adheres to regulations from local, State, and Federal Government, OSHA, Department of Health Services and National Fire Protection Agency.

PVFD maintains records, such as personnel, training, incident reports, equipment inventories and financial data.

3 thoughts on “Special election draws near

  • April 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm
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    I have a hard time with the Portola Fire Department calling themselves “Volunteers”. A volunteer does something without expectation of anything in return. Portola Fire Fighters receive $10 per call.

    I do not understand how they can say the budget is $90,000 when you look at the city budget and the fire department is budgeted $25,000.

    If the tax dollars would be used responsibly I would support this measure, however, I do not believe tax dollars are being or will be used responsibly.

    This will impact all of us financially. Homeowners will be paying more in taxes and renters will be paying more for rent (the landlords will pass the tax increase on)

    Can you afford for your taxes or rent to go up?

  • April 18, 2017 at 9:30 am
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    with Portola’s citizens#1 income is welfare ie. government dole & the city concentrating on tourism in lieu of real jobs. I understand your concern but, this time, this little, needed increase in tax is a good thing. maybe the fire dept could raise the the standard of just volunteers.

  • April 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm
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    The City of Portola needs to raise it’s standards for the volunteers they recruit and accept. Under trained personnel dealing with structure fires and medical aids could potentially cost the City in the long run if they cannot deliver the needs of the community. I agree the current tax is far below the amount needed to run the department, but a 200% increase is unrealistic. Getting proper equipment and modern training by the NFPA standards need to be top priority. I just can’t see that huge of an increase with to staff we have now. I cannot support this much of an increase at this time and I don’t think most citizens will. The special election with cost the city to be defeated because the increase is too much.

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