MARTINEZ (KCBS) – Skyrocketing pension costs and slumping property tax revenues could send Contra Costa County firefighters to the ballot box to help keep their stations open.

Tuesday, Contra Costa County Fire District officials will formally present a proposal at a public hearing in Martinez, asking for a $75 annual parcel tax. As proposed, it would be in place for 7 years, pulling in an estimated $17 million annually – enough to keep all stations afloat.
KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

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The District covers roughly 600,000 residents of 300 square miles, from cities stretching from Antioch to Walnut Creek to El Sobrante. Without the parcel tax funding, the District says it’s looking at tough cuts.

“The current estimate is anywhere between 7 and 10 stations closing, that’s basically one-third of our fire stations,” warned Fire Captain Bob Marshall. “We just don’t have enough money to continue to do business the way it is. And a lot of that’s due to property tax declining.”

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Earlier this month, neighboring East County Fire closed half of its stations after voters failed to pass a $200 annual parcel tax.

Critics of Contra Costa County Fire District’s parcel tax proposal suggest the District hasn’t tried hard enough to enact cost-saving measures from its firefighters union, adding that there hasn’t been enough discussion of possible privatization of fire services.

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