Santa Maria Fire Chief Dan Orr knows all about the importance of
voter-approved funding. Although he says people generally don't want to pay more taxes, Santa Maria's recent history proves otherwise. In 2012, Santa Maria voters approved Measure U, a quarter-cent sales tax. It's main purpose is additional funding for public safety needs, and Santa Maria Fire is the main beneficiary.
That sales tax has paid for a new fire station, a battallion chief, and equipment. Chief Orr says it's greatly improved operations.
"It's worked from a work load perspective, it's obviously helped from a
response time perspective. It's been absolutely huge for us," said Orr.
Five Cities fire wasn't so lucky. By a 60% margin, voters turned down $1-million in extra money each year, about $66 dollars per single-family household. Six of the department's firefighters are paid by a grant, but it expires in September. Five Cities Fire has said those 6 jobs would be lost if the measure didn't pass.
Five Cities Fire issued a statement in response to the vote:
The Five Cities Fire Authority attempted to establish a benefit assessment fee to increase funding for fire protection services which included; sustaining six full time employee positions, monies to pay for dispatch services, and establish a funded capital replacement schedule for replacing fire engines and special equipment such as breathing apparatus and auto extrication tools.
The benefit assessment did not pass. Five Cities Fire Authority will work within its financial means and continue to provide an outstanding level of service to the public.
Once new SAFER grant guidelines are made available, Five Cities Fire will consider the possibility of re-application.
The Five Cities Fire Authority personnel are honored to provide fire and emergency services to the communities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano and surrounding county areas.
Based on his experience, Chief Orr believes this decision by
voters will likely bring change to the Five Cities Fire operations.
"You got to learn to live within your means, and if you can't maintain
your means, and the electorate is not willing to give you more money, you
have to change from the inside," said Orr.