SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB
DATE: June 14, 2005
CONTACT STEVE SCHMIDT AT 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108
JACOB'S FIRE FUNDING PROPOSAL GETS NOD FROM SUPERVISORS
SAN DIEGO - The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal by Supervisor Dianne Jacob to shift a portion of local property taxes from local schools in order to unify underfunded rural firefighting agencies.
Jacob, who has been calling for the consolidation of the 35 individual fire agencies serving the unincorporated area of the region, said a long-term, stable funding mechanism is needed if the consolidation effort is to succeed. She said rural fire agencies are already dangerously underfunded.
"My plan uses taxes we already pay to address a big discrepancy in funding between schools and fire protection. When it comes to property taxes, our fire agencies are being short-changed," Jacob said. "At the expense of fire agencies, we are contributing an unfair share of property tax dollars to local schools, about 9 to 11 cents more than the statewide average," she said.
Jacob's plan calls for shifting up to three cents of property tax revenue currently allocated to local schools to a proposed regional firefighting agency. Because the State guarantees funding for each student, the State would be obligated to pay for the shifted portion and schools would not be hurt, according to Jacob.
"As a former teacher, school board member and past president of the California School Boards Association, I would not bring forward a proposal that hurts our local schools in any way," Jacob said and stressed revenue neutrality would be included in any State legislation concerning the funding proposal.
"This should serve as an added guarantee that local schools will be made whole," Jacob said.
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), an independent state agency with the power to create and dissolve public entities, is studying the merger of the fire agencies and is expected to release more detailed information, including cost specifications, later this year.
"Although this study is expected to be completed by LAFCO in December, we cannot afford to wait until that time to initiate this proposal to find long-term stable funding for fire," Jacob said.
Representatives from rural fire agencies, San Diego County Fire Chiefs' Association, the San Diego County Fire Districts Association, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the Deputy District Attorneys Association, the Deputy Sheriffs' Association, as well as some school officials have expressed support for Jacob's plan.