County officials want the Local Agency Formation Commission to seek “a consolidated, countywide approach” to fire protection as LAFCo weighs reorganization of fire agencies.
The message was contained in a letter sent by the board of supervisors after a unanimous vote April 8.
LAFCo had asked for the county’s comments on a study of possible reorganization of five south-county fire agencies, but the board’s letter addresses the entire county. The County Fire Department, by far the biggest of the county’s 14 fire agencies, covers 286 square miles of rural land.
“The service delivery needs of the entire Santa Cruz County community must be taken into account,” the supervisors said.
Without suggesting a specific plan, their letter calls for:
- “… consistent delivery of countywide fire services.”
- Inclusion of “all rural and urban fire services, countywide.”
- “Appropriate geographical boundaries to maximize countywide service delivery.”
- Avoidance of service reductions and assurance of “sustainable improvement of operational efficiencies.”
- Phased implementation.
“Without a consolidated, countywide approach, formation of new special districts taking County Fire service area would result in revenue reduction to County Fire,” the letter said. “This, in turn, creates an adverse impact on County Fire. … Ultimately such formation would also result in a service reduction somewhere else.”
Bonny Doon has applied to LAFCo to form a fire protection district, and residents of Corralitos have talked about a similar plan. Both are now part of County Fire.
County fire officials already are planning service reductions after a rate increase failed last summer.
A county staff report attached to the supervisors’ letter pointedly lists the disparate annual tax revenue per capita for the various fire agencies, from County Fire’s $72.85 to Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District’s $395.25. The average of the 11 agencies listed is $123.45.
The letter will be included in a staff report to LAFCo on the south-county fire agencies when all agencies involved respond, according to LAFCo executive officer Pat McCormick.