Ensuring Adequate Fire Protection in San Diego County

DATE: September 28, 1999 
TO: Board of Supervisors 
SUBJECT: Ensuring Adequate Fire Protection in San Diego County 

SUMMARY:
Numerous fire districts and volunteer fire departments in San Diego County operate on slim budgets and utilize dedicated volunteers to ensure the public's safety. This year, the LAFCO Fire Services Funding Task Force was formed to address the long list of funding issues. The County has the opportunity to assist many of these poorly funded fire agencies by setting up a trust fund for capital improvement needs. The lack of funding has reached a critical stage and immediate action is needed to supplement their current funding sources. Although counties and cities have received some relief from the state after the tax shift in 1992 and 1993, little fiscal relief has been provided to fire agencies. This is a public safety matter that affects each and every person in the region.

This action would establish a trust fund for the capital improvement needs of fire agencies that rely heavily on volunteers. The funding would come from savings realized from the refunding of the East Mesa Detention Facility.

Recommendation(s):
SUPERVISORS DIANNE JACOB AND PAM SLATER 
1) Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to establish a trust fund for the capital improvement needs of fire agencies that rely heavily on volunteers regardless of whether they have an established County Service Area or not.

2) Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to allocate the savings realized from the refunding of the East Mesa Detention Facility into the trust fund.

3) Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to work with fire agencies to design a grant application process for the allocation of these funds and return to the Board with a recommendation within 90 days.

Fiscal Impact: 
Once savings are realized from the refunding of the East Mesa Detention Facility, those savings would be appropriated into the Fire Agency Capital Improvement Trust Fund. It is estimated that one-time revenue of $226,000 and ongoing savings of approximately $200,000 annually will be generated by the refunding. A total of $2,061,000 is estimated to be saved over the life of the refunded project.

Background:
Numerous fire districts and fire departments in San Diego County operate on slim budgets and utilize dedicated volunteers to ensure the public's safety. This year, the LAFCO Fire Services Funding Task Force was formed to address the long list of funding issues. The County has the opportunity to assist many of these poorly funded fire agencies by setting up a trust fund for capital improvement needs. The lack of funding has reached a critical stage and immediate action is needed to supplement their current funding sources. Although counties and cities have received some relief from the state after the tax shift in 1992 and 1993, no fiscal relief has been provided to fire agencies.

Currently, many rural fire districts and volunteer fire departments are in need of adequate apparel, equipment, fire engines and fire stations. These basic capital needs negatively affect their ability to provide the best service to the residents of this County. Inadequate funding not only impacts those people who reside in a fire agency's service area, it also affects people who travel through that service area. Approximately 80% of the service calls by rural fire agencies are related to an emergency medical situation, with a majority of those calls for people who don't reside in that service area. In addition, large fires and other catastrophes require mutual aid from many of these underfunded fire agencies. The impact is felt throughout the entire region.

The County has an interest in assisting with this vital public safety matter. Although the trust fund would not solve the ongoing funding needs, it would allow many of these fire agencies to meet their capital improvement needs. The LAFCO Fire Services Funding Task Force is currently putting together a list of capital needs. The County has an opportunity to play a role in improving the delivery of fire services to the people in this region. We urge your support.

Respectfully Submitted,

DIANNE JACOB 
Supervisor, Second District

PAM SLATER 
Supervisor, Third District