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Orange County

Firefighter Bid for Funds to Go to Vote

September 29, 2004|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Orange County voters will decide whether the county fire department should get a portion of the more than $200 million earmarked for public safety that the county receives each year from state sales tax revenues.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to put the matter on the ballot rather than give the Orange County Fire Authority 10% of the sales tax funds as the agency requested.

The measure will be on the ballot in 2006. If approved, the Fire Authority could receive $30 million by 2008 and more than $80 million per year by 2025, according to a county study.

In 1993, state voters approved Proposition 172, which dedicated one-half percent of sales tax collected by the state to public safety agencies.

The proposition let local governments decide how to distribute the money.

In Orange County, the Board of Supervisors allocates 80% of the funds to the Sheriff's Department and 20% to the district attorney's office.

Firefighters say they want their fair share, pointing to the ballot language for Proposition 172 that indicated the money would go to police and fire agencies. But sheriff and district attorney officials note their agencies have lost property tax revenues that still flow to the fire department.

Unable to resolve the matter through negotiations with the Board of Supervisors, the fire authority this year collected thousands of signatures in a petition drive to qualify the matter for a ballot.

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