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County Fire Officials Seek Backing for Tax

Valleywide | Valley Focus

May 09, 1997|SYLVIA L. OLIANDE

As fire season creeps in with high winds and hot weather, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials are drumming up support for Proposition E, a special tax on the June 3 ballot that would help maintain current staffing levels after a portion of their budget is lost.

"There is a misconception in the public about how we're funded," said Assistant Fire Chief Stephen J. Alexander, who has toured his division area speaking about the proposition. "We're trying to give everyone the facts so that they can vote."

The passage of Proposition 218 last November made illegal an existing fire suppression benefit assessment district, established in 1991 when property values, which make up 63.7% of the budget, began to fall.

The assessment, about 13% of the budget, was intended to shield the department from wild fluctuations in revenue, Alexander said.

If no new funding mechanism is put into place before the assessment expires on July 1, the department will lose $51.7 million. The probable result will be closure of approximately 22 county fire stations and 34 engine companies, he said.

The average homeowner pays approximately $50.96 per year to the benefit assessment, and this replacement tax would cost approximately $48 per year, Alexander said.

Westlake Village approved a resolution endorsing the proposition at a meeting last week, and Calabasas and Agoura Hills each approved similar resolutions at meetings Wednesday. Hidden Hills is expected to discuss the issue soon.

Several homeowner associations have launched campaigns to get two-thirds of voters to pass the proposition. At least one residents' association president said she is concerned about automatic opposition to any tax, but is more concerned about voter apathy.

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