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Proposed Fire Suppression Assessment Put on Hold
District reassessing proposal based on extensive public input
Metro Fire Chief Kurt P. Henke announced April 9 that he will not ask Metro Fire's Board of Directors to proceed with the balloting process for a fire suppression benefit assessment. For this reason, Metro Fire's Board of Directors will not meet on April 16, as scheduled, to vote on the question of whether to commence with the vote-by-mail proceeding.
"After conducting extensive outreach, including two public hearings on the assessment proposal, we believe the most prudent course of action is to not pursue this fire assessment at this time," said Chief Henke. "Although there is widespread recognition we cannot restore service levels without additional revenue, I want to spend more time consulting with my Board members and key stakeholders to evaluate our options before asking my Board to commence a balloting process."
On April 3, Metro Fire held a public workshop on the proposed assessment. During the workshop, staff presented information about the district's labor cost reforms, fire suppression service levels and the district's long-term fiscal challenges, as well as the proposed spending plan to restore fire suppression services and the proposed fire assessment. The Board then heard from approximately one dozen people who either voiced their opinions or asked questions of staff. The Board was informed that the Sacramento Association of Realtors had voted to support the assessment and the Sacramento Taxpayers League would be opposing it.
Last week, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) also expressed its opinion in a letter to Metro Fire's Board of Directors that no fire assessment, however it might be engineered, is permissible under Proposition 218. HJTA argues that Metro Fire should instead pursue a special tax, requiring a two-thirds majority vote among registered voters in the district, regardless of whether they own property or would pay the tax.
"While our legal counsel disagrees with their position," said Henke, "we have to consider the impact protracted litigation would have on Metro Fire’s ability to deploy these funds if property owners were to approve an assessment."
Added Board President Randy Orzalli, "As we pursue how best to manage our staffing and equipment needs with limited resources, Metro Fire's Board will continue to place the highest priority on protecting the public and ensuring the health and safety of our field personnel."