By Vince Wells
Via a Facebook Post
First of all let’s talk about the term “scare tactic” that has been so widely used by those who support a “no” vote on Measure S.
The definition of the two words are; Scare- “to frighten” Tactic- “the science of organizing and maneuvering forces in battle to achieve a limited or immediate goal”.
So based on your interpretation of the definition, you can decide.
Measure S supporters are providing frightening facts to inform the voters of what the outcome will be if Measure S fails.
In 2007, the fire district received 12 million dollars in revenue from property taxes and now it receives just below 8 million dollars. This is a 4 million dollar loss in revenue. As a result, the district is seeking the passage of a parcel tax to close that gap and bring the service levels up to the levels provided everywhere else in the county. Regardless of any improvements or cost increases, the fire district cannot afford its current level of service without additional revenue. As a result, if Measure S fails, the community will be faced with the following situation.
If Measure S fails:
1) Fire Stations will close (down from 6 stations to 3 stations). See the article for the two options or see the fire board minutes from the May 7, 2012 meeting.
2) Fire fighters will be laid off leaving 8 to 9 fire fighters on duty to cover 238 square miles and 105,000 people. Last year there were more then 6000 calls averaging around 17 calls a day.
3) 911 response times will double, and services will be reduced. The current average response time is 6 minutes and twenty-seven seconds.
4) The resources provided by neighboring Con Fire will be limited (currently Con Fire provides unlimited resources to East County Fire Protection District at a 2 to 1 ratio last year). They will not respond to low level calls or cover empty East County fire stations if Measure S fails.
5) Based on these inadequate and unsafe staffing levels, home and business insurance rates will increase.
Here are some of the facts that support the 5 points above.
The district cannot afford to keep the current service levels because the fire district’s revenue and budget has been around 12 million dollars annually and must be cut by 4 million dollars to a 8 million dollar budget. Over the past three years the gap has been closed by reserve funds. Those reserve funds run out July 1, 2012. That has created the need to cut over 4 million dollars out of the budget or seek additional funding. (If pension cost were zero, the district would still be underfunded).
So as a result, if Measure S fails, these facts occur:
1) Fire stations will close
2) Staffing will be reduced to 8 or 9 fire fighters depending on the option approved by the board.
3) 911 response times will go up. There are currently 6 district fire engines and 1 Cal Fire engine covering the 238 square miles and 105,000 people. This is a total of 7 engines available with 19 fire fighters on duty ( in the rest of the county 7 engines would be 21 fire fighters, but ECCCFPD under staffs two of its 6 stations by staffing it with only two fire fighters). If Measure S fails, stations will be closed and fire fighters will be laid off, so response times will go up. If you have fewer resources available and they are traveling further distances to respond to a call, it will take longer to arrive at the scene.
The results of longer response times are frightening and should be unacceptable in this day and age. New technology has been put in place to assure rapid intervention in both the fire and medical fields. If the resources are not available to arrive on time, all of these other technological advances become somewhat useless. Examples would be medical alert alarms, automatic defibrillators, smoke detectors, or fire alarms. They are all put in place to assist first responders with assuring improving the outcome of a life threatening emergency by quick notification for rapid intervention.
From the field perspective, I have 20 years in the Fire/EMS business combined. I have arrived on a medical emergency when the family stated that their loved one just stopped breathing a minute ago, or when they lost a pulse a minute after we arrived. Early intervention provides the best opportunity for a positive outcome; just ask any medical or fire professional. Listen to the voice of the 911 call of a young mother whose baby has stopped breathing. As a first responder, not only have I heard her voice, but I have seen her face and worked to revive her child. Seconds count, and as anyone who has called 911 for a true emergency can tell you, seconds seems like minutes.
Rapid intervention is as equally important went it comes to fires as well. One house fire becomes two in a matter of minutes. A car fire on the side of the road becomes a large multi-alarm grass fire in no time. An apartment fire that starts in the kitchen of one apartment can become multiple apartments without rapid intervention. Large fires require multiple resources for long periods. 9 fire fighters in an area as large as East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District is a drop in the bucket.
4) Con Fire provides automatic aid to ECCCFPD at a rate of 2:1. If ECCCFPD closes stations and is left with three fire engines to cover the district, this would mean that under the current practices, Con Fire would have to subsidize the district twice as much. This means that the Antioch and Pittsburg community would suffer longer response times because ECCCFPD has reduced its staffing to unsafe levels (the current 2:1 ratio already shows they are currently understaffed). To prevent this from happening, Con Fire will no longer respond to non-emergency calls, and will not cover stations while the ECCCFPD engines are tied up on a emergency to allow for emergency response only. Currently there are no limitations.
5) Fire insurance rates are impacted by fire service capabilities. When the Cal Fire contract was cancelled last year, many of the residents in Morgan Territory had their rates quadrupled and some cancelled (fact). Three fire stations, in 238 square miles, with 9 fire fighters on duty, is a significant reduction in fire service. That is the staffing level for a rural community. It will definitely have an impact. Water access is a major component of the fire insurance rating. Many of the areas in the district have no fire hydrants. The fire fighters bring the water in 3000 gallon trucks. Who is going to drive them if you close half of the fire stations? Insurance rates will increase based on this issue alone.
Those that are encouraging a no vote for Measure S are not offering any specific or realistic solution. July 1, 2012 is just over 50 days away. They throw out a lot of numbers and percentages that are based on projections. All of their projections use the worst case scenario to make their case. In 2007 no one knew what was going to happen in 2008. It was one of the worst crashes of the stock and housing market in history. It has lead to the loss of jobs, homes, businesses, and retirements. So of course retirement costs have gone up as well. The system is designed to have ups and downs. Will they go down in the next 10 years? Nobody can predict how the economy will be doing even in the next two years.
My point is, the numbers being printed on blogs and on this site that go beyond this year are all guesses, they are the “scare tactics”. What will happen on July 1, 2012 is fact. Fire stations will close, response times and insurance rates will increase.
Here are a couple of facts for the voters to consider regarding pensions. You cannot change the pension plans for current employees. This is the current law that is in place. Both Kris Hunt and Dan Bornstein, will both admit this. We can change the pension plans for new employees only. It takes a legislative bill to establish other pension tiers in our system. In fact, as we speak there is a new safety tier in our retirement system that is currently at the state capitol for approval. This has significant changes to it, that if approved, will decrease the costs of the benefit for both the employee and employer. Nothing can be done until this process takes place, and again, even when we all agree to go to it, it will not have an impact on today’s budget situation. The experts are aware of this fact. Until the majority of the work force is in that tier, the savings are minimal. Also, there are several changes that have been put in place to prevent the spiking practices of many of our formal administrators.
So again, I would suggest that if you are not sure of how you should vote on Measure S you should consider the facts that we know. If it fails, stations will close, staffing will be reduced, response times and insurance rates will go up. The tax measure has a 10 year sunset. The projections stated in the 10 year plan were all based on set assumptions. The board will have the ability to make the necessary adjustments annually to keep the budget balanced. All of the ideas or concepts being suggested by the “no” side, could be looked into over the term of the parcel tax. If there is validity to any of them, they can still be implemented at anytime. The board has the ability to collect from 0 to $197.00 each year. Regardless of the pension cost or benefits, the district is fundamentally underfunded. There was a 30% loss in revenue that caused the problem, not the increase in expenditures.
Protect your fire and emergency services by voting Yes on Measure S!
Kris Hunt: had the following statement via Oakley Watchdog
In regards to Measure S, I have used the term scare tactic because the Fire Board offered a tax that doubles the district’s revenue overnight and funds a 30% staffing increase. The poll done by the Board indicated that voters would only likely support a tax of $96. Instead they put forth a tax that starts at double that and grows to be $250. Then they say VOTE FOR THIS OR ElSE WE CLOSE THE STATIONS!
There could have been a more modest plan that residents would have supported and could have met the District’s needs but not the massive expansion.
Vince Wells’ argument is like the definition of the Yiddish word “Chutzpah” where a man kills his father and then asks the judge for mercy because he is now an orphan.