Representatives with the Groveland Community Services District don’t have a lot of time to figure out how their fire protection services will be structured now that the district Fire Department is losing about a third of its budget.
The district Board of Directors started considering some possible plans for department operations in the wake of Measure D’s failure at the polls Tuesday.
The tax measure would have replaced the current fire assessment, which raises $300,000 annually for the department budget, with a special parcel tax.
However, the measure did not receive the required two-thirds majority from district voters, and in fact didn’t even receive a simple majority.
“I think the public spoke loud and clear on it, and we will respond,” said Director Joe Riley.
With the fire assessment set to expire at the end of the month, the board will likely have to hold a special meeting before its next regular one in July to make concrete decisions on the department’s future.
“If we’ve got time constraints, we better get busy,” Director Joe Armstrong said.
The district receives between around $900,000 through property taxes annually, though some of that money has traditionally been allocated for parks maintenance. The board directed General Manager Gary Mello and district staff to come up with and present alternatives and corresponding budgets for funding the department with only that revenue at a future meeting.
Riley also said a range of alternatives should be studied and on the table. For him, that could include contracting all year-round fire protection services to Cal Fire.
“We have to look and see if we can continue to provide reduced services,” he said.
The fire department is staffed by a chief, three captains, three engineers, a group of paid reserves, an administrative assistant and volunteers. A contingency budget produced by fire officials before the election predicted the department would have to reduce staffing to a chief, three captains and a mix of reserves and volunteers if it failed. However, fire department staff and members of the board have publicly questioned if enough volunteers would be available to make that model work well.
The board will have some help through the process, too. Directors voted to form a seven-person committee to investigate and advise on options. The committee will include three from the GCSD board, two members of the public who were opposed to Measure D and two members of the public in favor.
Both Armstrong and Director Steve Perreira both pushed for the committee, saying that the public should be involved in the process.
“The public voted,” he said. “Let them be part of figuring this out.”