Dear Town Council Members,
Please do not spend $49,500 of the Town of Atherton’s limited tax revenues on the proposed Fire Services “Fiscal Review”.
The Fire District is an independent Special District. The voters in the Fire District, including those residing in Atherton, have elected the five Directors of the Fire Board. The Fire District has NO parcel tax and NO construction bonds. The Fire District lives within its revenue by carefully controlling its total personnel count – which is the primary cost driver for all local agencies.
The proposed review is designed to study something over which the Town Council has no authority and no control. The Town Council cannot change what the Fire District does, how it does what is does, or whom it serves.
The Matrix Project Plan assumes significant time and effort will be provided by Fire District even though the Town has been told repeatedly that such Fire District resources will not be available for this study. It does not appear that the Town has informed the vendor of this critical problem with the vendor’s March 29th Project Plan.
In the highly unlikely event that the majority of the residents of Atherton did vote (and ONLY the residents can make that decision, not the Town Council) to “detach” from the Fire District (which is a very difficult process) such detachment would require the County to allocate to Atherton ONLY the amount currently being spent in Atherton by the Fire District. The Matrix study will be Exhibit 1 in that reallocation process. Hence under State law the portion of the former Fire District property tax revenues that the Town of Atherton would receive would be insufficient to provide the same high level of fire services that the residents currently receive. Instead most of the property taxes currently paid to the Fire District by Atherton residents would have to be reallocated to other NON-Atherton agencies. The property taxes of Atherton residents would not be decreased by a single penny. And the Town would probably need to seek a much higher parcel tax in order to be able to provide for or contract for its own fire services.
When the non-Atherton residents of the Fire District discover that this property tax reallocation process would also mean a reduction in their level of fire services without providing any real benefit to the Town of Atherton you can expect outrage at your actions.
There is no doubt that the residents of Atherton pay more in ALL kinds of taxes than they receive in services – to the school districts, to the Fire District, to the Harbor District, to the Open Space District, to the County, to the State and to the Federal government – but where is the value in spending our limited Town of Atherton tax dollars studying any of these entities and trying to figure out how to somehow pay less than our fair share?
We have an elected Fire Board – let them do their job and let the elected Town Council focus its efforts on our critical needs like police services, roads and drainage.
Peter F. Carpenter