GCSD director changes his mind on fire tax

April 18, 2002 11:00 pm

By MIKE JENSEN

A Groveland Community Services District director is calling a proposed fire tax in his district unfair and says he won't vote for it.

"As a citizen, land owner and tax payer I will be voting ‘no' on this tax...," Director Joe Moore stated in a one-page letter sent to The Union Democrat Thursday.

While several south county residents have questioned the need for the proposed "benefit assessment," this is the first time a GCSD official has spoken out against the tax.

Earlier this month directors voted to send ballots to area property owners asking them to hand over more than $200,000 per year to help fund the GCSD fire department.

General Manager Jeff Winner said the tax would offset increased operating costs and lower revenue resulting from a Tuolumne County accounting error. The error, discovered by state auditors last year, resulted in GCSD being overpaid $970,000 in property tax throughout the 1990s. The money should have instead gone to the state's Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF).

While Moore was among GCSD directors voting in favor of sending out the ballots earlier this month. he said Thursday that he has since changed his mind. Among concerns raised in his statement:

• The tax proposal is "premature" as it relates to paying back ERAF money to the state. "There is every possibility that this amount will be forgiven," he states.

• The ERAF error has reduced the department budget by about $60,000, he states. But, "The proposed tax is asking for an excess of $220,000."

• "Our fire chief has added three additional firefighters with no fiscal plan as how to finance or budget their salaries. (One) position on the department is currently vacant. This one position creates a $30,000 annual savings to the department. Our fire department currently enjoys one of the most expensive budgets in the county."

• The proposed tax is "apportioned unfairly," he states, noting that a person living in a small home on several areas of land would be asked to pay more than somebody living in a larger more expensive home on less acreage. A flat tax would be more fair, he states.