It continues to be the opinion of the Coastside Fire Protection District board majority that the Coastside has the potential to significantly increase the level of fire service to the community while not increasing taxes.
In looking at the long-term debt obligation in the areas of retirement, health care and other employee benefits, the board majority thinks that the only way to control those costs is to establish them through negotiated memoranda of understanding, limited by the district’s available funds, and not take the roll of the dice with state-imposed contracts. Local control is not a state contractor who supplies services on its timetable but a staff that is directly accountable to the board and the local community.
In response to a recent article and Matter of Opinion (Review, Sept. 26) concerning this year’s fire district budget, I wish to re-emphasize one important detail. The amount set aside for transition costs is a placeholder describing the funds that are available without impacting the taxpayers. The actual transition budget is due to be considered Thursday, Oct. 18, in open public session and will be available on the district’s website.
In his Matter of Opinion, Marshall Ketchum is apparently unaware of several very important facts concerning the matters under consideration.
First, the budget does not place any additional cost on the taxpayer. He ascertains that this budget will cost every household $378, which seems meant to suggest that this will be a tax increase per household. This is not true.
Second, this board chose to daylight the costs of transition by assigning it a budget line item and by taking the specific action in the board meeting that required expenditures from this fund be made only with board approval. In contrast, the transition to Cal Fire cost the district well over $2 million and that was buried as loans from CalPERS and Cal Fire rather than showing up in the budget. The decision to transition to Cal Fire was made in about four months, with the only record of the board’s action and deliberations being fragile cassette tapes. Contrast that to the current process, which has taken more than two years, and been recorded in the district’s written minutes and with videotapes of the meetings that are posted on the Web.
Third, Ketchem alleges that “Mackintosh wouldn’t even listen to Fire Chief John Ferreira’s annual report.” If he had been at the meeting or checked the minutes of that meeting, he would have discovered that a motion was made to table the Schedule E Report (which is actually given quarterly) until the following meeting at which the report was heard. There also seems to be a disconnect in understanding the difference between “cronyism” and a contractual and ethical responsibility to current employees.
It was saddening to read the letter from a fellow board member (Ginny McShane, Sept. 26) in which she states that there is a $1.4 million difference between the stand-alone budget and the Cal Fire contract budget. Since no stand-alone budget yet exists, one can only wonder where her number comes from. Her estimate of the increased hours worked and salary differentials are unfortunately equally inaccurate. Her opinion that we would not have been able to purchase the current fire engines without the assistance of Cal Fire overlooks the fact that the contribution to the capital equipment replacement fund follows a formula established more than 15 years ago and was the source of revenue for these purchases. She decries the money spent on consultants while at the same time asking for data that only they can provide.
Lastly, I must note the interesting tactic in last week’s advertisement in the Review of comparing last year’s actual expenditures to next year’s proposed budget, which includes the carryover of this year’s unspent revenue. Interesting also is the inclusion of the engine staffing that has been in place on Coastside engines for more than 10 years, long before Cal Fire ever arrived.
Doug Mackintosh is the president of the Coastside Fire Protection District board of directors.