County supes OK ‘911 tax’ for March ballot

Seal of Los Angeles County.

A 6-cent-per-square-foot parcel tax, to aid the Los Angeles County Fire Department in hiring more firefighters and paramedics and replacing safety gear and life-saving rescue equipment, has been unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors to be added to the March 2020 ballot for voters to decide. 

“With an extended fire season and a substantial increase in calls for emergency medical services, voters will have the opportunity to help the Fire Department address its structural deficit to ensure our first responders are fully equipped to continue providing the highest-quality public safety services,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th district, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.

The L.A. County Fire District 911 Firefighter and Paramedic Emergency Response Measure would impose “an annual special parcel tax of 6 cents ($0.06) per square foot of improvements on all improved parcels, except as exempted, within the district,” the report says. The parcel tax is computed by the size of the structure, not the overall property, according to county officials. (The approximate average size of a single-family home in Los Angeles is 1,700 square feet, which equates to about $102 for each homeowner.)

“Today’s fast-moving, explosive wildfires and the rising numbers of 911 calls are really putting a strain on the hard-working men and women who are our local firefighter/paramedics,” L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said in a news release. “There’s a human impact on them as we stretch to ensure the safety of our neighbors and community. We desperately need more resources to meet today’s demands. I’m grateful to the board for placing this much-needed ballot measure before our voters.”

Specifically, this parcel tax is designed to generate ongoing funding to allow the district to hire and train additional firefighters and paramedics, and to replace aging safety gear, communications tools and lifesaving rescue equipment, the report says. 

Unlike other departments in the county, the fire district receives its funding through property tax collected within the district, not through the county’s general fund. Unfortunately, the funding collected has not been enough to keep up with the department’s increasing needs, according to the report. 

“Since 2008, L.A. County has seen an over 50% increase in calls for assistance in medical emergencies, such as strokes, heart attacks and car accidents,” the report says. “Yet, in that same time period, there has been less than a 5% increase in paramedic units to respond to those calls.” 

If voters approve by a two-thirds vote, the parcel tax would collect about $134 million a year from residents in the Consolidated Fire Protection District, according to a news release. 

“When you call 911, you know help is coming. For us, this is our 911,” said Erin Regan, L.A. County firefighter and paramedic. “We are asking you for this measure because our firefighters and paramedics in the field need more resources.”

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