Do you know how your department collects its taxes? Some fire districts collect their own. Others have the county collect and take care of it as it is simpler on the department. Either way the tax money is collected and sent to the state. The state then sends back a portion to the county to distribute amongst the county organizations. The county is starting to take the allocated fire tax money that is for the fire district and that property owners pay on their property tax.
You pay your property tax, the tax is collected and sent to the state. The state then takes what is theirs and sends back about 35%, (depending on your tax rate) back to your local county government. Of that 35% you then have the money allocated out into different county government organizations. That 35% is a huge part of what funds the county general fund. The tax money is than allocated to the fire department and other projects, departments or social programs that the county has set up for that property tax to fund.
In California, prior to Proposition 13, fire districts received tax dollars on their district and boundaries. Since Prop 13, annexations that go into a fire district doesn’t share the taxes. So fire districts have to negotiate tax sharing with the county.
The problem is they are no longer giving the fire departments the base tax. The base tax is what the property is worth now, as it sits. Just the increment tax on the property is given to the fire protection district. The increment tax is any improvements to the property that increases the value of the property, when the tax assessor reassess they than increase the value and that increased value is the increment tax. For instance an empty lot that then has a house or commercial building built on it. The increment tax would go up and the fire department would generate some money but nothing off the base tax. The base tax is 5% and increment tax is 7%. But you only get that increment tax on any property improvements.
Their is a loss of incentives for fire departments to annex and especially when the increment tax has gone the other way like it has in these economic times with property values declining. Fire districts previous annexations required the base tax (pre Prop 13). Making it feasible for the department to protect that annexed development/property. LAFCO is now having you negotiate with the county because they want/need it. If these fire districts knew when they annexed an area that they wouldn’t get the base tax as promised, then they probably wouldn’t have extended their services and liability like they did.
When you have a development or property that has been annexed in and is just sitting their, like in most cases right now. The base tax is what gives the Fire Department incentive to protect that property. As well it helps fund that property for when it does become a bigger asset with more liability. But for now it sits their and the county takes all the base tax. Yes, they say their is usually always a one percent increase and increment tax on the annual property tax because the property values increase about one percent each year. Not lately. Even on the 1% increment tax of the property its not much to the fire district. Base tax is needed.
The county then comes back to the fire department and tells the fire protection district to just go out and charge the property owners with fees to make up the difference. Like its an easy thing. A fire department doesn’t want to do this. Especially when the property owner has already paid their property taxes. Not to mention the time and effort the department has to put into it. Your their to protect and serve them, not screw them over with fees and taxes.
So as a fire department I would urge you to make sure you are receiving all the allocated tax money that should be allotted to you. Go to your supervisor and fight for that base tax that is yours. Raise hell. Most supervisors use this in their campaigns to show how they will help fire, but they never do once elected. Counties are greedy and it is far easier for them to take your allocated tax rather than make cuts on their behalf. Making you and your department suffer. It hurts a rural and volunteer department hard when they rely on these funds to keep them running. Not to mention the people of the district rely on and need their medical and fire coverage.