Pension Debt Killing Fire Services in Mountain Area Fire District

Cities like Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino are going bankrupt—so what, it just means less government and we are forced to hear the whining of bully unions. But when a fire district goes belly up—in a mountain area around Lake Arrowhead—that is a danger to all of us. Unions have gotten their grips so far into our wallets that it is possible the State might have to take over fire protection from a local district massacred by the unions and their greed.

“As previously reported in The Alpenhorn News, the CFFPD found itself hard hit by decreased tax revenue as a result of the economic downturn, attempted to keep the district alive through reducing its expenses including salaries and staff reductions, asked the voters for an increase in its assessment and when its measure failed to pass, then contracted its services to the SBCFD that was able to provide the services for less money, has $218.00 remaining at the end of its 2014/15 fiscal year, is now facing annexation, a process where the district, its services and revenue are absorbed by the SBCFD. “

The good news is that this district will dissolve, one way or another. A lesson for all of us as to what will happen if we do not have pension reform.

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$33 million pension debt hangs over fire district

Gail Fry, Alpenhorn News, 7/30/14

According to an interview with The Alpenhorn News, Crest Forest Fire Protection District Administrative Secretary Patti Forsythe explained the district has $33,102,477 in pension debt with 20-years of $410,437 in annual payments that will be paid before residents receive any fire or emergency services.

At its July 15 meeting, the Crest Forest Fire Protection District (CFFPD) received an update on the status of the district’s application to be annexed by San Bernardino County Fire Department (SBCFD), which is to be submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). This is the district’s first step toward dissolving the independent fire district.

As previously reported in The Alpenhorn News, the CFFPD found itself hard hit by decreased tax revenue as a result of the economic downturn, attempted to keep the district alive through reducing its expenses including salaries and staff reductions, asked the voters for an increase in its assessment and when its measure failed to pass, then contracted its services to the SBCFD that was able to provide the services for less money, has $218.00 remaining at the end of its 2014/15 fiscal year, is now facing annexation, a process where the district, its services and revenue are absorbed by the SBCFD.

According to financial records, CFFPD will not have sufficient tax revenue or money in its fund balance to cover its annual contract costs with the SBCFD beyond its 2014/15 fiscal year.

The CFFPD, an independent fire district, established in 1929 to serve the communities of Agua Fria, Blue Jay, Cedarpines Park, Crestline, Rimforest, Twin Peaks and Valley of Enchantment with fire and emergency services, is destined to ride off in the sunset and become a piece of history unless a majority of the community rallies to use the protest process to save its independent fire district.

However, its $33 million in pension debt will remain like a dark cloud over the communities it used to serve until the debt is paid in full. The pension debt owed to the San Bernardino County Employees Retirement Association (SBCERA) will be paid first “before any other money is used for fire suppression,” Forsythe explained.

Forsythe further clarified the remaining pension debt a total of $33,102,477 requires twenty years of annual payments in the amount of $410,437 including a 4 percent annual compounded increase “to offset the cost of the County Safety Cost Pool.”

“LAFCO will ensure that the obligation incurred by the district will be paid by the residents within the service boundary,” Forsythe confirmed.

In an interview with The Alpenhorn News, LAFCO Executive Officer Kathleen Rollings-McDonald explained they had provided CFFPD with some examples and were waiting to receive the completed package from the district.

Rollings-McDonald explained LAFCO needs an application, a signed resolution from the board, a plan for service, maps and legal analysis, a fiscal impact analysis, revenue projections, disclosure of existing liabilities and a plan for how they will be paid.

At its July 15, meeting Director Leslie Dodge-Taylor pressed its staff on when the application package would be ready for submission to LAFCO. SBCFD Battalion Chief Ron Walls explained their goal was 30-days but to give them 60-days to allow for areas that needed to be researched.

CFFPD is preparing the application and related documents for submission through LAFCO the agency that handles all proposed boundary changes in San Bernardino County. Additional information about the process can be found at LAFCO’s website: http://www.sbclafco.org/

During the annexation process LAFCO will announce, through publication in the newspaper and/or mailing of a notice, a period of time during which registered voters and/or landowners may submit a written protest against annexation.

 

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.