Municipal Advisory Councils To Hear Report On Economic Impact To North Auburn-Ophir Fire Service And State Responsibility Area Fee

Two of Placer County’s municipal advisory councils will hear presentations next week on funding challenges facing the Placer County Fire Department in the North Auburn-Ophir area.

The presentations will be made by Assistant Director Rui Cunha of the Placer County Office of Emergency Services. He also will report on how Placer County residents will be affected by a very controversial fire prevention fee the state plans to impose in State Responsibility Areas (SRAs).

The first presentation will be to the North Auburn Municipal Advisory Council on Tuesday, Sept. 13. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the Planning Commission Chambers at the Placer County Community Development Resource Agency building, 3091 County Center Drive in North Auburn.

County Center Drive is located just east of the intersection of Bell Road and Richardson Boulevard in the Placer County Government Center, a complex commonly known as the DeWitt Center.

The second presentation will be to the Newcastle-Ophir Municipal Advisory Council. It is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 in Ophir Elementary School, 1373 Lozanos Road.

The Placer County Fire Department provides fire services in many unincorporated areas not served by independent fire districts. The county contracts with CAL FIRE to staff the department.

To help fund the fire services, the county has established independently funded Community Service Area Zones of Benefit in areas served by the county Fire Department, so that local residents can establish their own fire service levels.

In the North Auburn- Ophir area, Placer County Fire is facing a $350,000 deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year. If current trends continue, the deficit will increase to $550,000 next fiscal year and the fire department will exhaust its reserves in North Auburn-Ophir.

Cunha will report on how Placer County Fire’s budget challenges in the area could impact services to the community.

Due to reductions in property values, North Auburn-Ophir Fire has seen nearly a 20 percent reduction in property tax revenue. These economic conditions are affecting all local independent fire districts.

During his presentations, Cunha will update the public on the status of the controversial state fire prevention fee.

This summer, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a budget trailer bill that created an annual fee of up to $150 per structure in areas where the state is responsible for fighting wildfires. Recently, a new bill was introduced in the State Legislature that proposes a higher annual fee.

Placer County is concerned the state fire prevention fee will hamper several local fire districts that have been particularly hard hit by reductions in property tax revenue. Some districts may need to ask voters to determine if their existing service levels should be reduced or sustained. Within county service areas and fire districts, sustaining service may require passage of special tax initiatives requiring super-majority votes (66.6 percent approval).

“Residents in the North Auburn, Lone Star and Ophir communities need to understand the challenges facing their fire department and how they may be affected,” said Cunha. “I look forward to the presentations and the opportunity to answer questions.”