Cayucos fire tax to appear on June ballot
March 18, 2016
Cayucos fire officials are trying to stave off dissolution of the community’s fire department by asking voters to pass a tax in June. The tax would raise the assessment on single-family homes in Cayucos from $100 a year to $500 a year. [Tribune]
Last October, the Cayucos fire commission announced plans to dissolve the fire department and turn over the agency’s responsibilities to San Luis Obispo County, which contracts out to Cal Fire. The Cayucos Firefighters Association has since been pushing for a tax measure to keep the fire department from folding.
If approved by voters, Measure C-16 would fund the transition of the Cayucos Fire Department from a volunteer-based agency to one with full-time firefighters.
Cayucos firefighters are paid-call employees. They received some compensation but are considered volunteer firefighters by state standards.
Fire department staff says a budget of more than $1 million is needed to make the transition. The fire department currently has a budget of approximately $500,000 — about half of which goes to contract with Cal Fire, which places a captain and firefighter at Cayucos Fire Station 11 during the non-fire season.
The fire department serves about 2,600 people and responds to more than 400 calls for service yearly. Revenue comes from property taxes and an existing special fire tax that voters approved in 2012.
Union officials say the fire department has struggled to retain and recruit adequate staffing because of the paid-call system. The union argues the tax measure is necessary to maintain local control over fire services.
If voters pass the ballot measure, the tax initiative will fund the department for at least 10 years without the need for another increase, union vice president Mark Walton said.
The fire commission is currently hiring temporary staff through June 30 using about $90,000 in savings from fire season starting late and from paying less to contract with Cal Fire last year. The commission will meet in May to discuss alternative options should voters reject the ballot measure.
Vote-by-mail ballots start going out to voters on May 9. California’s primary election will take place on June 7.