Overview Of The 9-1-1 Emergency Fire Response Measure For East Contra Costa Fire District

ECCFireUSD_TBWB_Life_Email_NeighborA federal grant that keeps two of our local fire stations open is set to expire in November and cannot be renewed or extended. Unless new revenue is secured now, two local fire stations must close permanently and 18 firefighter/EMT positions will be eliminated.

This would leave 250 square miles and over 100,000 residents in East County with just three fire stations and nine on-duty firefighter/EMTs to keep us safe.

If two more fire stations close this year and we lose 40% of the firefighter/EMTs currently serving East County, 9-1-1 emergency fire response times will increase to 15 minutes or more. Fires double in size every 30 seconds and, when deprived of oxygen, permanent brain damage can occur in as little as four minutes and brain death in as little as eight minutes.

This week you are receiving a ballot in the mail and your vote will determine the future of local 9-1-1 fire response. A YES vote will provide locally controlled revenue that can only be used to:

1. Preserve rapid 9-1-1 emergency response times
2. Protect the fire department’s ability to respond to multiple emergencies occurring at the same time
3. Maintain fire stations, fire engines and lifesaving equipment
4. Prevent the permanent closing of two local fire stations
5. Prevent the reduction of the number of on-duty firefighter/EMTs

Strict fiscal accountability is required:

- Every penny raised will be spent here in East County
- Funds can only be used for fire protection and emergency response services
- No funds can be taken away by the state or county or used for other purposes
- An independent citizens’ oversight committee and annual audits ensure funds are spent properly
- The proposal automatically expires in five years and cannot be extended without another vote

This stable local funding comes at a very small price to pay, approximately 30 cents per day for the typical homeowner, to keep 9-1-1 emergency fire response services alive in East County.

Vote YES to Protect Rapid 9-1-1 Fire Response in East County!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What area does East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) serve?
- ECCFPD provides fire, rescue and emergency medical services in a 249 square mile area of Eastern Contra Costa County. The District basically covers the Cities of Brentwood and Oakley, the Town of Discovery Bay, the communities of Byron, Bethel Island and Knightsen, the Marsh Creek/Morgan Territory area, and all other areas to the East of Antioch and East and South of Clayton. It serves a population of 105,000.

How was the District impacted by the recent recession?
- The District relies primarily on property tax revenue and the Great Recession and associated decrease in property values led to a 40% decrease in funding for local fire and emergency medical response.

What has the District done so far to live within its means?
- The District has closed three of the original eight local fire stations; reduced fire suppression employees from 57 to 48; frozen salaries from 2007 until 2012; reduced administrative employees from 4 to 2; sold its surplus equipment; and reduced budgeted expenditures to a minimum. Additionally, our firefighter/Emergency Medical Technicians’ (EMTs) take-home salaries are reduced by up to 25% by contributions for pensions and healthcare.

How would further service reductions impact emergency response times in East County?
- If two fire stations close and 18 firefighter/EMTs are laid off, 9-1-1 emergency response times to portions of East County could increase to 15 minutes or more. For victims of heart attacks, strokes, accidents and other medical emergencies, permanent brain damage can occur in as little as four minutes and brain death in as little as eight minutes. The District’s ability to respond to multiple emergencies at the same time will be especially hampered.

Why is the District proposing a 9-1-1 Fire Suppression Measure?
- A temporary federal grant that keeps two of our local fire stations open everyday is set to expire on November 17, 2014. The grant cannot be renewed or extended. The Fire District Board of Directors has made substantial budget cuts and has evaluated all options for funding. Unless new revenue is secured between now and November, two local fire stations must close and 18 firefighter/EMTs will be laid off. This will leave 249 square miles in East County with just 3 fire stations and 9 on-duty firefighter/EMTs to keep us safe.

What will the 9-1-1 Emergency Fire Response Measure fund?
- Preserving 9-1-1 emergency response times
- Maintaining the number of on-duty firefighter/EMTs
- Keeping local fire stations open
- Maintaining the ability to respond to multiple 9-1-1 emergencies

How can I be sure these funds will be spent wisely?
- The 9-1-1 Fire Suppression Measure will require strict fiscal accountability provisions, including:
- All funds will stay in East County
- No funds can be taken by the state or other agencies
- Mandatory annual audits and reports to the community will be required
- No funds can be used for administrative costs or administrator salaries
- An independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee will ensure funds are spent as promised

What will happen if the 9-1-1 Fire Suppression Measure does not pass?
- The Fire District’s projected budget will only support three fire stations and nine on-duty first responders to serve 249 square miles and 105,000 residents in East County. This will require closing two fire stations and reducing the number of on-duty firefighters by 40%.

How is the District funded?
- The majority of District funding comes from a fixed percentage of the 1% Property Tax on assessed valuation of all parcels within the District. This percentage is capped by Prop 13 and is not at the discretion of the District. The District also receives additional funding through federal grants, which only provide funding for a limited number of years. The District currently has a federal SAFER Grant, which will expire in November. If replacement funding is not secured, this loss will lead to the closure of two fire stations and have a direct impact on local 9-1-1 emergency response times.

Are there other significant sources of funds to which the District has access?
- No. The District has no access to the General Fund of the County or either City within the District. The District receives a portion of the $10 County EMS fee, which provides 2% of the budget. The District receives income from one Community Facilities District, that of Cypress Lakes (Summer Lakes), which provides 1.5% of the budget. These funding sources are insufficient to help maintain the current levels of emergency response services. Any additional funding must be approved by local voters residing in the District.

How do the salaries of our local firefighter/EMTs compare to others in the area?
- East County firefighter/EMTs are already paid 40% less than those in nearby fire departments.

What can be done to reduce pension costs?
- East County firefighter/EMTs already pay a significant portion of their own pension costs, which reduced their take-home salaries by up to 25%. New employees were shifted to a smaller pension plan, assuring that all employees pay their fair share. The Board has done everything it is legally authorized to do.

When will I have the opportunity to vote on the 9-1-1 Fire Suppression Measure?
- Ballots were mailed out to all property owners in the District August 22 and must be received by October 6 to be counted.

What if I don’t receive my ballot in the mail?
- If you did not receive your ballot or can’t find it, please call TrueBallot at 888-854-3190.

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