I’d like to address Ms. Kris Hunt of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association for lying to the public in her recent Letter to the Editor in the Brentwood Press. I have gone through each of her statements and dissected why she is flat out wrong.
It should also be noted that it’s not the Brentwood Press’ fault for the misinformation, its not their job to fact check Letters to the Editors, that is on the authors.
Ms. Hunt’s comments are in bold.
District needs long-term solutions to deal with its financial issues. Measure S is not the solution. Fire Chief Hugh Henderson admits it and the district’s own numbers prove it.
Even increasing the tax by the allowable 3 percent per year (the tax becomes $250 in 10 years) and including modest property tax growth, the district will begin spending more than it takes in within four years. At the end of 10 years it will end up where it is now financially – or more likely in worse shape. Why? The cost of the Measure S 30-percent staffing increase, adding another station, the growing pension obligation, etc. increase the district’s expenses beyond the capacity of even the $250 tax level.
It is a 10 year model. It is not set in stone. In fact, I don’t believe you can legally bind whoever is running the district to deployment models when you don’t even know your revenue streams. This was also pointed out to Ms. Hunt in the televised debate with the Contra Costa Times.
The District is not trying to take in more than it needs, it is simply trying to get our fire district closer to the level of service Ms. Hunt currently receives from her Fire District in Walnut Creek. It’s actually the responsible thing to do by trying to plan for growth and work to save lives.
The question that should be asked to Ms. Hunt is why do you get services that costs more, hire paid fire crews and East County cannot have the same benefits?
And the $65,000 question is who gave her the authority to speak for all of us to decide whether or not we can afford it? Isn’t the whole point of a ballot measure to give the VOTERS the opportunity to decide for themselves whether A) they see a need for the service and B) whether or not they can individually afford it?
Why is she trying to take away our ability to decide that for ourselves? The District has already had a pay freeze, its laid off firefighters, closed stations, and it’s still not enough. The tax will help ensure some of those items that were removed come back to service.
That means a $250 tax will have to not only become permanent but will have to be increased under the 30-percent staffing increase model that is justifying Measure S.
Nothing is permanent on this tax, voters can vote no in 2022/2023 if the District did not use their 10 year window wisely. In fact, voters could recall this parcel tax in 2-3 years if we wanted should the District decide not to take action to find a better fix. She is fibbing in her statement. Voters do hold the power going forward if Measure S passes because we can take it away just as easily.
Something forgotten in this whole debate is should revenue increase from Property Taxes, the District could decide not to max out on its annual tax with a 3% kicker—it could choose $0. To go a step further as there is nothing preventing the Board from deciding during budget talks that they want to lower the rate to that magic $96 she is apparently stuck on.
A 2011 district-funded survey showed that people supported a $96 tax – a big number for people in this struggling economy. But the district Measure S would cost 2½ times that tax amount and yet still doesn’t solve the district’s long-term problems. So in order to pass the measure, scare tactics must be employed. At one district meeting, one of the board members actually said that they should spend all the reserves and force people to vote for a parcel tax. Talk about arrogance and irresponsible behavior! But that is essentially what the district is doing.
For the record, this so called poll (just 600 people) did not actually support the $96 tax in sufficient numbers. Support for “definitely yes” and “probably yes” combined was between a 58-60% support which doesn’t work out to well when you need 66%.
It was also a totally different question and scenario and it didn’t include the service levels under discussion today. So the data does not carry over. Ms. Hunt is again mixing apples and oranges.
By the way, it’s easy to make the statement that a board member said this or that without naming that specific board member or the meeting. With that being said, the Board members comment is being taken out of context and being used without the entire dialogue behind it—it’s actually a good point being made even if it is silly and comes across badly.
It was more of his acknowledging that was one of the unintended consequences. It WAS NOT presented as a strategy to force votes as Ms. Hunt assumes.
This is not about good fire protection or even good government. If it were, other steps would have been taken and a reasonable tax that actually solved the district’s problems would have been put before the voters instead of proposing this 30-percent staffing increase as the only option. For example:
The district has not talked to Cal Fire, the state fire agency that other troubled districts have turned to in order to reduce costs, since 2006.
Does this woman think prices stay the same? The State Agency costs have increased significantly while it’s been proving left and right that their service has decreased. If the ECCFPD thought it was a good idea in 2006, they would already been implemented within the District. What Ms. Hunt fails to mention is when you do switch to CALFIRE, you also switch retirement to CALPERS which is a much large retirement problem in terms of unfunded liabilities.
Now we are stuck in her asinine argument that $197 doesn’t fix it but $96 will be fine. She has the CalFire proposal that Morgan Hill got just last month. It was a 6 month process from the time the City Council set the RFP idea in motion to generation of the quote, staff review and formal presentation to the Council. That information is online via their minutes. We have 45 days before all hell breaks loose.
While she is stuck on the $96 parcel tax, that same figure goes into the red even sooner than the $197 does if we flat line staffing models. It’s hard to exactly extrapolate with the Chief’s current 10 year model because a ramp up in staffing is included, but estimates of about a year 3 redline for her $96 plan.
You don’t see her touting that little fact—she is leaving that one out because it’s an even worse idea than the $197.
The district has not negotiated a change in firefighters’ retirement benefits, which currently allows them to retire at age 50 on 3 percent of their salary for each year they have worked. In fact, union negotiations have stopped until after the election, when the union members will want more – not less – if this tax passes. The district had an unfunded pension liability of over $21 million as of Dec. 31, 2010.
This woman is ignoring the fact 250+ agencies use this model including police and other emergency personnel. More to the point, ECCFPD firefighters pay more into their retirement and insurance than other districts–these guys have also not had a pay raise. She is lying and cherry-picking a single point that is an industry standard. She also gave no examples of this even occurring in the District. Should each personnel decide to take a 10% pay cut–since people are apparently obsessed with their pay, it saves the District just $250k which is not a big dent at all.
The silly point that while Ms. Hunt is trying to sell Calfire, her solution also comes with the nice 3@50 pension as well. This woman is a hypocrite.
Let’s talk briefly about fire insurance costs, which is the primary scare tactic currently being used. An honest answer is that nobody knows what would happen. Fire insurance is only one component of your home insurance premium. The Insurance Rating Service, which looks at fire-protection service, includes many factors in the evaluation of homeowner’s insurance fire-protection cost. For example: 40 percent of their calculation is water availability that will not change; 10 percent is communications systems, and that will not change.
This woman clearly is in denial and ignores what occurred in this very District with the closing of the Sunshine Station. Insurance rates in some cases went up nearly 400% and some homes are deemed uninsurable to this day. In looking at the 3-proposed stations and the five mile radius, parts of Brentwood, Oakley and the outskirts of Discovery Bay are now outside of the 5-mile radius–meaning insurance rates go up no matter what.
Second of all, even if an engine can get to your emergency in 6-7 minutes, the backup engine (if available) is now 13-14 minutes behind. Don’t tell me insurance rates will not increase—common says they will because with less service, something has to give as the insurance companies will want to protect themselves.
The water argument has been shot down previously. She is refusing to ignore her own posted document that states department readiness and water are considered together. If either is deficient, both tank in the scoring.
Common sense should tell anyone that you don’t cut half your stations out, increase your risk dramatically and not see a rise insurance. At the TV deal she tried the “out” that the Morgan Territories example didn’t apply because they are rural to start with?
So what do we tell Knightsen and Bethel Island folks when their stations are eliminated?
The average homeowner policy in California is just a little over $1100. It only takes a 20% bump and any projected savings by voting down the measure is gone. Plus you get the kicker that you are no longer protected.
Since Ms. Hunt is arguing so passionately against this tax, I’d like to know which special interests (you know, insurance companies) are apart of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association.
She may be being paid to advocate on behalf of the insurance companies—at this time, its unknown but we deserve a right to know.
Finally, if the Morgan Territory example doesn’t apply because we are rural, then why does our funding apply because we are stuck being funded as a rural district? This is how illogical this woman is. We are a suburb of developed cities with rural funding levels still in place. Oh Ms. Hunt, Morgan Territory example does apply.
But the discussion should not even get to this point. There is still time for the district to provide solutions after this tax fails. Instead of frightening people about what might be, the district needs to come up with workable solutions and then propose a modest parcel tax, if needed, in time for the November election. The district needs to govern on behalf of the public.
Still time? Where was this lady 2 years ago? Ms. Hunt fails to provide her own solution–the reality is any solution would involve some sort of parcel tax. If the $96 tax previous proposed would ensure sustainability, the board would have gone for it.
See the earlier timeline for the CalFire proposal. The one that says it will cost $2.4 million per station. In East County, that equates to around $14.4M out here. The scenario Ms. Hunt is touting doesn’t fly when you only have $8M. What Ms. Hunt doesn’t know share is any changes in pensions does not benefit the balance sheet for years, if not a decade.
These are tough times, and choosing to expand staffing by 30 percent while failing to solve the financial problems of the district is just wrong and should not be rewarded by getting your vote.
It’s not a choice, the District must plan for growth and ensure sustainability. The $96 tax discussed a few years back ensured the District would not be sustainable within 2-years. This particular tax gives us 10 years to really work to resolve the problem which is to work with the State to reallocate Prop 13 funding.
When the Contra Costa Times video of the Measure S debate goes online or replayed, you’ll have to watch it very closely, but I’d almost swear near the end she tried to use the example of an acquaintance of hers who lives in a nursing home. So that person couldn’t afford the tax because they only have like a .3% increase annually on their fixed income.
The reality is that someone living in a nursing home does not care about a property tax assessment because they likely no longer have property—it’s an argument made for emotional appeal which if anything, that example of everything I’ve heard recently does not apply.
Honestly, Ms. Hunt is a talking point know it all, as is Dave Roberts and John Gonzalez proclaiming that Measure S will suck money out of the local economy. It actually, in a backwards way protects the local economy.
With a Measure S failure, it will kill home values due to lack of fire protection when people decide to sell, their will be a net outflow of businesses because of the new environment of unaffordable insurance rates which have skyrocket and protecting their assets here make no longer fiscal sense—end result, residents go to another area to shop because stores close leaving Sales Tax to enrich other communities.
The financial realities are likely to get lost in the upcoming days and only scare tactics about closing stations will remain. That is a shame. Taking the district to the financial brink and offering only a costly service expansion as the costly option is not good governing. Asking residents for this kind of a tax increase in these tough times, when so many homes in the district’s service area are under water, is not good governing.
As Vince Wells repeated several times, it’s not a scare tactic. Stations are going to close if it fails—3 stations and 24 firefighters will be laid off. I would ask Ms. Hunt to point out what could possibly be done to prevent that given the revenue available?
She has stated multiple times that a solution could be put on the November ballot for voters-5 months later while we are stuck with very little service. But will she pay for this ballot because she illogically is supposed to be for lower taxes and government spending, but now apparently wants to go through the expensive ballot process a second time.
Talk about someone who is mixing their message.
Residents of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District deserve good fire services they can afford and sustain for the long term. The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association opposes Measure S because it rewards the kind of short-term thinking that would leave the district with major long-term problems.
This is a hypocritical statement because we deserve good service but she is advocating for closures and layoffs. That is illogical. It could be argued it’s the first step in a 10 year plan to fix the problem while ensuring services.
The bottom line is good fire services cost real money which doesn’t grow on trees. If the voters decide that either they don’t want it or don’t have the money, then we’ll be forced to accept what we can afford. But here she is indirectly suggesting that someone is supposed to step up here, presumably the fire fighters, and take a 40+% wage hit and keep on providing the same level of service. That isn’t going to happen, obviously.
Maybe the easiest way to point this out is to ask here for an example anywhere in the State of California where someone is doing a full-time professional 3 man engine fire department for $1.3M per station. She won’t be able to identify one because they don’t exist.
This woman is fibbing and should be exposed for not being truthful. Shame on her for abusing her position as President of the Contra Costa Taxpayer Association for personal gain.