No good deed goes unpunished in the world of public union politics. The firefighters’ union and its cronies have attacked the efforts of two east county citizens to correct the local fire district’s underlying fiscal problem. Hal Bray and Bryan Scott formed the East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECV) to develop a relatively painless tax reallocation solution that will allow the district to reopen several shuttered fire stations, significantly improving emergency response in the area. They have the full support of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association.
A cabal of union-influenced proponents are pushing for an increase in local property taxes, an idea that surfaced in the past. It was opposed by CoCoTax, and was soundly rejected by voters for good reasons:
- The district has done little to correct its crippling unfunded pension obligation, a problem that can only be addressed if the board opens its eyes. It must reject the assumption that taxpayers will somehow foot the bill; municipal bankruptcies in Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernadino have shattered that myth.
- The unwillingness of the fire district board to even seriously acknowledge the problem is evidenced by the fact that they recently granted a 5% across-the-board wage increase, thereby exacerbating the pension shortfall.
- Area taxpayers are already struggling to make ends meet with recent tax increases at every level of government, and face a flood of new tax hikes on the June and November ballots. Most of these proposals are generated by the reality that unfunded public employee post-retirement obligations - whose disclosure is now required by new national accounting rules - represent hundreds of billions of debt statewide, and are clearly unsustainable.
Mary Piepho and other officials who have attacked the ECV effort should be ashamed of themselves for encouraging such bald falsehoods:
- The tax reallocation proposal does NOT force any participating agency to cut its current spending. It does ask them to forgo a very small portion of their projected future tax revenue increases in order for the fire district to receive funding at the average of all the county’s fire agencies. Any of the government bodies involved should easily manage this shift, given the importance of effective emergency response.
- Bray and Scott do NOT oppose a parcel tax increase. They have made clear that if area voters wish to impose such a tax on themselves, so be it. They are focused solely on correcting a structural tax imbalance that has persisted for decades.
- “Sacred cow” school districts should NOT be exempt from contributing. These agencies receive by far the largest share of county property tax revenues. Any incident involving large groups of school children to which the fire department cannot promptly respond is potentially devastating.
CoCoTax has met with various parties in east county and stands ready to work with anyone who is truly dedicated to finding sound long-term solutions to the dire need for better emergency response, but only at a cost taxpayers can afford. We do not wish to demonize firefighters, whose emergency response efforts we fully appreciate, but we vigorously oppose this campaign of lies and slander for the ultimate purpose of kicking the public pension can down the road.
President, Contra Costa Taxpayers Association