Statement on Special Fire Districts

Published on May 19, 2015

We greatly appreciate the quality fire services provided by the special fire districts throughout Placer County. As the Foresthill Fire Protection District searches for solutions to its financial woes, it’s important to understand why Proposition 172 money is not the right solution.

Proposition 172, also known as the Public Safety Sales Tax, was enacted after voter approval in 1993 to compensate cities and counties for the significant loss of funding from the “ERAF shift.”  ERAF -- the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund -- was when the state took property tax from local governments to help fund state supported local schools. This property tax shift would have devastated local, rural fire districts if it applied to them, so many people – including Supervisor Jim Holmes, then a board member of the Placer Consolidated Fire Protection District – lobbied heavily to have independent fire districts exempted from the ERAF shift. Special fire districts, including Foresthill Fire, were almost entirely excluded from that tax shift and were allowed to keep their property tax. The reason that special fire districts do not receive funding from Proposition 172 is because they did not experience a loss of those tax revenues to the state education fund.

The taxpayers agreed that Prop 172 dollars should replenish the substantial amount of public safety money actually lost by cities and counties through ERAF and in fact, Placer County uses the money to fund our sheriff’s office, district attorney, emergency services, hazardous materials response team, fire prevention staff, and other critical safety services.

We will continue working with Foresthill and other fire districts to see how we can offer assistance or recommendations. Currently there is a Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) study underway, reviewing the operational challenges of these districts, and how they can operate more efficiently.  At Tuesday's board meeting, the supervisors said they plan to have a full discussion about the future of special fire districts after LAFCO's municipal services review is completed. I am hopeful that if we work together, we can find a solution that provides optimal fire service for all of Placer County’s residents.

John McEldowney,
Placer County Office of Emergency Services Program Manager