OAKLEY -- East Contra Costa Fire District directors will consider a five-year parcel tax -- starting at $98 -- to keep the agency's five stations open.
The district's finance committee will present its recommendation to the full board at a Monday meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. at 3231 Main St., Oakley.
The proposed tax, which would generate an estimated $23.5 million all told, would increase 3 percent per year, meaning that property owners would be paying $111 by June 30, 2019, the tax's proposed expiration date.
The built-in increase is intended to narrow the gap between what the district expects to receive in property tax revenue over the next few years and escalating operating costs, including supplies and equipment replacement.
The inflation factor also reflects a hypothetical 2 percent annual raise for firefighters, something the district and union have yet to negotiate.
But presenting voters with a tax they're more likely to endorse also means there would be less revenue available to set aside for emergencies; as such, the finance committee is advising the district to lower its goal of a 20 percent reserve to one that's 15 percent of the budget for day-to-day operations.
If voters approve the tax on June 3, East Contra Costa Fire would start receiving the additional dollars in December, said Chief Hugh Henderson.
"That would give the district five years of stability and time to see what other (funding) options there are out there," he said.
But Henderson readily acknowledges the district likely would be right back where it started once the tax lapses. That's because its funding formula was established under Proposition 13 in 1978, a time when most of far East County's firefighters were volunteers and, with many fewer homes to protect, there was less demand for their services, he said.
Starting Thursday, the district will hold seven town hall meetings, from Bethel Island to Discovery Bay and Clayton, to inform constituents about the proposed tax and answer their questions.
Directors have scheduled a special meeting for Feb. 24, when they're expected to vote to place the tax on the June ballot.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.