Home Main Category Opinion EBRPD Is NOT The Answer For East County Fire District’s Funding Challenges

EBRPD Is NOT The Answer For East County Fire District’s Funding Challenges

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This is a Local Problem in need of a Local Solution

For 80+ years, East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) has been well known for its transparency in managing public funds by listening astutely to its taxpaying constituents in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. This has allowed EBRPD to successfully obtain the two-thirds votes needed for several park funding measures; we work hard to earn the voters’ trust.

Conversely, the East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECV), an anti-tax payer committee, and Assembly member Jim Frazier, (D-Discovery Bay) haven’t engaged well in East County to lead an effective campaign to raise funds within their community for their beleaguered fire protection district. Instead, they are asking communities outside their boundaries to fund their fire protection district that their own communities have voted against three times!

AB 898 authored by Assembly member Frazier suggests the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) should be funded by EBRPD from tax revenues received outside of the Fire District’s jurisdiction. They call it “reallocating” resources. We call it “theft” since EBRPD’s primary source of revenue in East Contra Costa County is a Landscape and Lighting District, and Measure WW bonds for acquisition and development of parks.  Given the services EBRPD provides to East County, no proportional funding comes from ECCFPD residents. Frazier is proposing other East Bay cities like Concord, Martinez, Richmond and Antioch pay for ECCFPD’s operations instead of their Regional Parks.

Frazier’s bill is a distraction tactic to avoid telling his anti-taxpayer supporters that in fact, it is fair and appropriate to fund their own important services in East Contra Costa County, the fastest growing region in the East Bay.  The arguments supporting this bill are false.  Here’s how they compare to the facts:

Argument:      Fire service is more important than parks.

EBRPD Fact:    Pitting fire safety vs regional parks is not relevant as EBRPD funds approximately $5 million annually for fire services delivered by unionized firefighters trained as first responders to fire and medical emergencies, and to protect communities from wildfires in parklands and open spaces.   As a first responder to the 1991 Oakland Hills wildland/urban interface fire, EBRPD firefighters assisted in the preservation of lives and properties.   Saving lives and property is equally important to EBRPD as it is to ECCFPD.

Argument:      EBRPD can do with less of its property tax growth.

EBRPD Fact:    This argument is perpetuated by ECV, the same anti-taxpayer group that opposes local tax increases for essential services, but evidentially feel it is fine to raid the taxes paid by other county property owners.  Their misplaced argument doesn’t consider the growing operational expenses needed to maintain the Park District’s existing parks/trails or repair over $8 million in recent flood and storm damage to our parks, lakes and 55 miles of shoreline.   

This tax transfer scheme would cut 1/5 of the Park District’s budget in Contra Costa County.  Should EBRPD lose funding through this Bill, services and operational impacts to parks and trails would occur including:  Big Break Regional Shoreline and Visitor Center at the Delta, Contra Loma Regional Park, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Round Valley Regional Preserve, Martinez Regional Shoreline, Briones Regional Park, and the Delta DeAnza, Iron Horse and Marsh Creek Regional Trails, to name a few.  Additional reduction in funding may negatively impact the District’s ability to support planning for public access at the Concord Naval Weapons Station or new parklands in Brentwood and Oakley – including proposed new access to the Delta near Discovery Bay.

Argument:      EBRPD wasn’t negatively impacted like other government agencies by a property tax shift requirement when the State needed help during fiscal crisis’ 25 years ago.

EBRPD Fact:    At the time, EBRPD was one of many agencies, including police and fire districts, justly recognized by lawmakers for its responsibility and significant funding of public safety services and thus, retained local tax dollars during a State-wide budget deficit.  In addition, State lawmakers also recognized EBRPD was a first responder for and funder of fire suppression in East Bay State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) where the State of California has primary responsibility for prevention and suppression of wildfires. Lawmakers also recognized EBRPD’s lead in solely funding the operations and maintenance of three State Parks.  All of these services remain funded by the East Bay Regional Park District today.

Argument:      EBRPD has plenty of money, $210 million annually.

EBRPD Fact:    EBRPD’s annual operating budget is $127 million (2016), which includes $5 million allocation to fund three State Parks with no reimbursement.  All additional funds transparently reported in our Annual Budget are voter-approved Measure WW bonds and designated grant funds for acquisition and capital development.  None of these additional funds are legally transferrable.

A recent economic study found EBRPD provides $500 million annually in benefits which include the values of recreation, healthcare, property values and ecosystem services. Instead of penalizing EBRPD by stealing from its tax revenues and unfairly impacting other community’s park services, we suggest that Mr. Frazier and ECV learn from EBRPD’s prudent good governance model and adapt similar best practices within ECCFPD. We applaud Brentwood’s recent proposal to look internally to fund an ECCFPD fire station within their city limits, and we hope others follow their lead to help develop a local solution to a local problem.

The Park District’s successful funding measures show the public’s significant support for our parks. The best way to ask the public for financial help is to engage them in an open and collaborative process to build credibility and trust, then ask for money … not take it from other popular services.

Share your views and support maintaining your Contra Costa County regional parks and trails at their current funding level.  Join us by contacting your local elected officials and saying no to AB 898.

Robert Doyle
General Manager
East Bay Regional Park District

21 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know if fire protection is more important than parks and recreation, but I do know that the EBRPD has 367 employees making total annual compensation of over $100K, topped by the author of this piece, who makes >$325K/year. WTH?

    Can we please reduce their budget and do *ANYTHING* else with the savings (or lower our taxes)?

    See: http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2015/east-bay-regional-park-district/?&s=-total

    And I thought Park Rangers were underpaid and under appreciated. No so much, it turns out.

  2. It’s deceptive to describe this as “news.” This is an opinion piece by a government official. Calling it “news” only lessens your credibility as a “news” outlet. It would be a better practice to identify this as an opinion and put the byline at the top. The top byline credits “24-680 News” and does not reveal until the end that it’s a political piece by the GM of the District. For balance and credibility, you also should be printing an opinion from the other side of this issue. There’s no use reading a one-sided “news” site unless you like echo chambers. My view is that you are taking a side and that diminishes your own credibility.

    • @SB – Might be time for that trip to the optometrist, SB. This is clearly marked as an opinion piece. And we welcome opinion pieces from all forums and positions as long as they hold to our terms of service relative to language, civility, etc. If you have a counter position to express other than in our comment forum, you’d be welcome to do so – though we would require your full name for attribution.

  3. SB – It is branded and presented as an opinion piece and is so marked. This was clear from the outset. You may want to reconsider your post.

  4. In this current age of media blaming/shaming and the dissemination of fake news one important factor appears to be routinely overlooked. That while some of the media are to blame for the propagation of false news and public hysteria over a multitude of issues, READERS should be held equally accountable for jumping to false conclusions, failing to read comprehensively, and remaining steadfastly ignorant on those issues. People today prefer to read things the way they want them to be, not as they are.

  5. Says very clearly at the top “by News 24-680.” At the bottom, it’s signed by the GM of the District. Classic sloppiness.

    • @SB – Since you persist, we include a screenshot of our banner (one of them) for this piece: As you can hopefully see, it brands the piece as an opinion piece with us as the host site. This is as EVERY story is marked, with additional titular references at the top of the story when it is opened. And, yes, it is signed by the author, which we thought would offer up a clue as to its creator.

  6. We seem to be at a point where we are either unable or unwilling to process basic information or to admit we are wrong even when presented with cold hard evidence that we are. It’s strange and kind of creepy because everyone seems so angry.

  7. Substance, anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

    @SB: What’s you view on the merits here?

    @World: Is no one as shocked as I was to learn of the compensation levels that these “Parks & Rec” folks are paying themselves?

  8. We’re not residents of East County, so I’ll leave the concern to the residents who live within the East County Fire District. I did enjoy reading the article.

    As far as the salaries of “others” – I don’t have the mental wherewithal to get involved. I try to focus on things I can control, and the only salary I can control is my own.

  9. Well, if the voters/citizens can’t pay attention to salaries of government employees who are paid with our taxes, who will? Crazy compensation packages for public employees happen precisely because no one is minding the till.

    Also, FYI, Lamorinda is in Ward 2 of the EBRPD, so this very much relates to us and our tax dollars….

  10. Apathy comes from a sense of powerlessness. As a lawyer, perhaps you can come up with a “powerful” solution.

    We pay a disproportionate amount of taxes, and I keep an even keel. It’s healthier. I can get angry (stress will take a serious toll on my health – I’m in excellent health), or choose to be apathetic. I’m going with the latter. And by he looks of the thread, I’m in the MAJORITY.

    When I was younger, I agreed with you. I decided to “let it go.” Feeling the way you feel got me nowhere. All I can do is vote, and I’ve never missed an election.

  11. We’re sorry the ECC fire district is not getting the funding it needs because emergency services should be kept up and given the ability to do what they do – serve and protect us. What I don’t understand is why the park district is singled out as the source for supplying these needed funds. Just because it has money? Is this what we’ve sunk to? ?

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