Jim Holmes, Placer County Supervisor
This question was asked of me by a Loomis Fire Protection District resident: "Please let me know why the Loomis Fire Protection District is asking for us to vote on an annual assessment to maintain basic services in the Loomis area. Is Placer County under-funding the Loomis Fire Protection District or is the Loomis Fire Protection District poorly managed fiscally? We believe our property taxes should be going to essential police and fire protection services first."
The LFPD is not governed by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. It is an independent special district created by the residents within the district boundaries and formed by an act of the California State Legislature in 1930. It is governed by an elected board of directors and funded by a percentage of the property tax generated within the district's boundaries. Today, the percentage of property tax for the LFPD is two cents on every dollar.
Prior to the passage of Proposition 13 by the voters of California in 1978, special districts could determine what percentage of property-tax revenue would be required for each budget cycle.
When Proposition 13 took effect, the property tax rates were frozen and the ability of special districts and the Board of Supervisors to set the property-tax rate was taken from them.
Proposition 13 is embodied in Article 13 A of the California State Constitution. The first paragraph, (Section 1.(a), states: "The maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed one percent of the full cash value of such property. The one percent tax to be collected by the counties and apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties."
The property tax is collected by the Placer County Treasurer and apportioned to the LFPD according to state law. The Placer County Board of Supervisors does not apportion the property tax.
Many fire districts in the nation were formed with a majority of firefighters being volunteers.
Over the years, it became increasingly difficult to find volunteers willing to dedicate the time and the hours of training required to qualify as a firefighter. Changes in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations mandated that volunteer firefighters obtain essentially the same type and hours of training required of paid firefighters.
This state regulation had the effect of reducing the ranks as those individuals could no longer commit the time necessary to be in compliance with the new training requirements.
Districts and their elected boards began to hire paid fire-fighters. At the same time, liability insurance costs rose dramatically as did worker's compensation insurance for paid firefighters and the few remaining volunteer firefighters, which is required by state law. The costs for fuel, utilities, and wages have also risen dramatically. Simply stated, the growth in the expenses of the LFPD has been exceeding the growth in the revenues provided by law.
Because of conservative fiscal policies of the pre-Proposition 13, LFPD board of directors and the fire chief, the current LFPD board finds itself faced with significant revenue shortfalls. The current board is to be commended for governing the LFPD with such revenue restraints and for providing services as long as they have.
For the past two years, budget reserves have been spent to keep the LFPD in operation. In order for the LFPD to continue providing services to the residents of the district, they have no choice but to go to the property owners of the district for additional funding.
Jim Holmes represents District Three on the Placer County Board of Supervisors.