News - October 24, 2007
Election 2007: Measure G would raise spending limit for Menlo Park fire district
Voters in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District are being asked to raise the limit on the amount of money the district can spend each year from $25 million to $40 million.
Measure G, which needs only a simple majority of votes to pass, will not increase taxes. If passed, the measure would be in effect for four years.
District board members decided to ask voters to approve the higher spending limit — also known as the appropriations limit — because they expect revenues to exceed the current limit in each of the next four fiscal years. "The change in appropriations limit ... allows the District to fully use revenues that have already been approved," they state in the ballot argument in favor of the measure.
Last year, the board asked voters to renew the $25 million limit for four years by approving Measure O, which passed by a wide margin. Since then, they realized that revenues were likely to exceed that level.
Board members cite the increase in the number and size of buildings the district is charged with protecting, as well as increased demand for services — including prevention, emergency and disaster preparedness, and public education — in their appeal for a higher spending limit.
Posted by Ollie Brown, Menlo Park Fire District Board President,
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2007 at 11:39 am
In response to the comments posted on the Almanac web site, I would like to submit the following responses:
While the district revenues presently exceed the current cap, going for an increase is superfluous. My question about this measure is whether this is a necessary step to enable a follow-on tax or bond afterwards.
Posted by D Gillis., a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2007 at 4:49 pm
Dear D. Gillis, The State Constitution restricts the spending of tax revenues by local governments above an annually adjusted limit. This limit is known as an appropriations limit. The Constitution allows the voters to increase a local government's appropriations limit for a period not to exceed four years.
The appropriations limit for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District
is currently set at $25,000,000. By this measure, the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District proposes to increase the appropriations limit to $40,000,000, for the period commencing November 6, 2007 and ending November 5, 2011. The Board of Directors anticipates that revenues will exceed the current appropriations limit in each of these fiscal years. If the current appropriations limit is not raised, the District will be precluded from appropriating and spending revenues which it expects to receive and therefore it does not believe that it will be able to maintain adequate funding for its operations and activities. This measure will not result in increased taxes; it simply allows full use of those revenues which have already been approved.
A "yes" vote on this measure would allow the appropriations (spending) limit for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District to increase to $40,000,000 for the period commencing November 6, 2007 and ending November 5, 2011. A "no" vote on this measure would not allow the appropriations limit to be increased. This measure passes if a majority of those voting on the measure vote
This measure is necessary to ensure the superior delivery of fire and emergency services that protect the people and property in Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and unincorporated areas of the County. It will NOT increase taxes. The change in appropriations limit to $40,000,000 allows the District to fully use revenues that have already been approved. An amendment to the State Constitution in 1979 imposes an appropriations limit on tax revenues of most government agencies including Fire Districts.
The District's original limit was based on the revenues during FY 1978.The limit is adjusted yearly for inflation, the adjustment formula does not account for increase and size of buildings or for increased demand for services, such as prevention, public education, New programs such as; Paramedic Engine Companies, CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) training for communities to be prepared to handle emergency and new fire protection programs that improves life safety within the fire district.
To increase the appropriations limit to $40,000,000 it's necessary that District voters approve the increase in the limit. A "YES" vote will enable the District to spend tax revenues over the next four years on the delivery of fire and emergency services within the District. If this limit is not
increased, the District will not have the ability to control the use of all its tax dollars and may limit the District's ability to maintain its current level of care and service.
THIS MEASURE WILL NOT RESULT IN ANY ADDITIONAL TAXES OR COSTS TO DISTRICT RESIDENTS. And is not a necessary step to enable a follow-on tax or bond afterwards.
What are they using the money for? All I ever see of those firemen is food runs at Safeway. Do they really have to use a gas guzzling truck costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars every time they get the munchies? Can't they use a car or is that just not as much fun?
I know that the fire district is not part of the city government and are separately funded. Me thinks this little empire is getting more than a bit ambitious with the real estate taxes they collect.
Posted by why???, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:22 pm
Dear why, See above comments on funding. As far as the firefighters grocery shopping at Safeway; Fire companies MUST remain "In service" at all times and remain as a unit ready to respond at all times. If they took a smaller vehicle to shop, the "Unit" would not be together with proper equipment and assignments to respond to emergencies, jeopardizing safety and quality of service. Today's firefighters are constantly away from their fire stations on alarms, training, Fire prevention inspecting, covering for other Engine companies at alarms, and yes, as they work on a 48 hour schedule, shopping for groceries for their meals.
Menlo Park Fire District already receives 16 percent of my property tax. By contrast, the city receives 12 percent. The city spends it on things we need, police, libraries, parks, street maintenance, etc. The Fire district goes on heroic rescue mission in faraway places. Nice, but why on our dime? They send humongous fire trucks for medical emergencies or to test a hydrant. Why? Sure, all firemen are potentially heroes, every day, every time they put on the uniform. But there sure are a lot of managers, administrators, clerks, etc back at their offices. Are they heroes too? As public employees in uniform, they already get generous pay, PLENTY of time off, GENEROUS pensions at a very high percentage of final years salary, and UNLIMITED health insurance for themselves for life. Is that enough? Since real estate values have been appreciating, is this a case of the fire district asking for it's share? Is it good public policy to simply give them a fixed share, irrespective of the need? These questions should be answered before we hand over any more money.
Posted by questions, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 12:23 am
Dear Linefield Oaks resident, See above comments on funding, Several additional comments to statements by Linfield Oaks neighborhood. Menlo Fire has to rely on only property taxes while cities have several resources such as; sales tax, hotel tax, business tax, property tax, etc. Our Fire District does respond to many incidents outside the fire district and with the exception of local "Mutual and Automatic Aid" (which goes both ways), the disasters that Menlo Fire responds to are completely reimbursed by the state and federal governments including those that are hired back to fill in while the disaster team is away. Having plenty of time off: Firefighters work a 56 hour work week. Unlimited Health Care for life: Menlo Fire employee's do not have this benefit.
I hope that this response helps to clear up some misconceptions about the Menlo Park Fire District and the services it provides.
Ollie Brown, Board President, Menlo Park Fire Protection District