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Q: What exactly is the problem?  

A: Due to financial cuts we can no longer maintain effective fire services to our community. The fire board has already cut firefighters and is considering cutting even more firefighters from the engine that responds to your home.  The fire district needs drastic cuts or increased revenues in order to balance the budget.  The fire district does not have the money to do both; provide the current level of service and balance the budget.   

Q: What does this mean to me and my family?

A: This means that response times will increase, a neighborhood fire station (possibly 2) will close, and fewer firefighters on the fire engine to help you when they get there! In order to be effective firefighters have to be equipped, staffed, trained, and the station(s) open…all in order to save the lives and property of you and your neighbors. 

Every 60 seconds that goes by, a victim of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest loses the chance of survival by 10%.  As a rule of thumb…Fire doubles in size every 60 seconds.  This could spell tragedy for you, your family, your neighbors, and yes our community! We have already closed a neighborhood fire station over 90 days so far this year, and are expecting it to be closed many more days.

Q: How many firefighters does it really take to deal with an emergency?

A:  Obviously that depends on the emergency.  But the National standard is to have a minimum of 4 firefighters on a fire engine.  We typically have 2.  Because the most critical emergencies such as house fires, cardiac arrests, and auto extrications are manpower intensive, having only 2 firefighters isn’t effective and doesn’t come close to the standard the Federal government says. This just further jeopardizes the safety of you and your family as well as the firefighters.

Q.  Why is the Fire District in such a bad financial situation?

A:  Our income is largely based on property taxes.  Because home values have dropped so much in the last few years, so have our revenues.  Also, because we are funded on a system that was put in place 30 years ago, our income capabilities haven’t kept up with the increasing demand in services.  Additionally, the continued growth of Lathrop City has forced us to provide a city fire department level of service on a rural fire department budget.

Q: Doesn’t the City of Lathrop run the Fire Department?

A: No. When the City of Lathrop was incorporated in 1989 as a General Law city under the government code, they were charged with making sure that you had essential services.  At that time, the City Of Lathrop decided to rely on the Lathrop Manteca Fire District to provide their fire protection services instead. The City of Lathrop has routinely spent millions of dollars for Police services.  This current sitting council has not spent one dime on emergency fire services. Yet the increasing growth of the city with no additional funding has increased the burden on the fire district.  Most cities pay over 60% of their general fund for police and fire.  Lathrop city pays 5 million per year for police services and ZERO for fire protection.

Q: What is a Special District?

A:  A special district is formed by a vote of the people to provide various community services.  These services range from Irrigation districts, public sewer and water, to fire services.  The Lathrop Manteca Fire District was originally formed in 1936 as the Manteca Lathrop Rural County Fire Protection District.  It is governed by the California Health and Safety code and a five member board that is elected by the voters throughout the district.  In essence these five board members make the decisions that provide accountability and direction to the Fire Chief concerning your fire services. 

Q: How is the fire district funded? 

A:  The fire district receives a small percentage of money from property taxes within its boundaries.  The money collected from property taxes is equal to a fraction of 1% of your total property taxes. 

The district also collects money from an override assessment that was approved by the voters approved in 1982.  The override assessment is approximately .03 cents per residential square foot, .06 for commercial business, and  .08 cents per square foot of industrial. This means that the owner of the typical home of 1500 square feet pays only $45 per year!  Both the property tax and fire assessment are tax write offs as well!

Unfortunately these funding mechanisms were meant to provide fire services to a rural-type of community, and as our community has grown and developed, our income has not kept up with the needs of the community.

Q. Doesn't Manteca provide all of the fire protection in the area?  After all, it does say Lathrop-MANTECA Fire District.

A. No. The word “Manteca” in Lathrop Manteca Fire District refers to the rural unincorporated areas around the city of Manteca, but not Manteca City.  These are the areas between the cities of Manteca, Ripon, Tracy and Stockton.  The Lathrop Manteca Fire District provides the fire services to those areas.

Q. Doesn’t the fire district receive Funding from the City of Manteca or Manteca's Measure M money?

A. No.  The fire district receives no money whatsoever from Manteca City. The fire district does not receive any money from Manteca’s Measure M sales tax either.  The City of Manteca's voters placed on the ballot and passed an increase of  sales tax to increase funding for their police and fire services only. 

Q. Who are our Elected Leaders of the Fire District?

A: Currently, Benny Gatto, Bill Mahaffey, Manuel Medeiros, Glorryana Rhodes, and Frank Cavaco.  Both Benny Gatto’s and Frank Cavaco’s seats are up for election this Novemeber.

Q: So what is the solution?

A: There are two problems that need solutions.  The immediate funding shortfall, and the long term funding plan. 

First in order to eliminate the immediate shortfall and keep fire stations open we are hoping that the City of Lathrop will be able to provide critical funding. 

Second, to address the long term funding plan, the district needs to explore avenues to streamline costs.  In the recent past we have explored ideas such as consolidating services with other nearby communities.  The problem is, operating costs for the Lathrop Manteca Fire District are much lower than our neighboring cities.  Nearby agencies such as the City of Manteca and Tracy Consolidated Fire can't fund the difference in costs.  There is a large list of other Fire Agencies throughout California that have successfully consolidated services.

Furthermore, our administrative costs are approximately 25% of our personnel budget.  Compared to nearby agencies like Manteca Fire and Tracy Fire, our administrative costs are high.  To make matters worse, when the Fire Chief and staff initially proposed cuts, not one dime was cut from the administrators, only front line firefighters.  That’s right, the burden was kicked right to those who respond to your front door.

Lastly, additional revenue sources need to be explored to maintain your emergency fire services.  We aren't sure what the future holds as far as revenue generating capabilities.  We do know that we cannot provide the high level of service that you deserve with an income structure that was developed in 1982. The fire district is exploring the options needed to maintain and ultimately increase the level of service you and your family need.   

Q. What can I do to help? 

A:  Contact your Fire Board Directors and tell them you want to keep the firefighters on the fire engines, and all neighborhood fire stations open.

Also contact the Lathrop City Council Members and tell them that The City Of Lathrop needs to immediately play more of a ongoing role in the funding of vital public services such as the Fire Department, and that you and your family can no longer risk going without fire and emergency medical protection.

Click here for Lathrop City Council contact info.

Click Here for Lathrop Manteca Fire District Board of Directors contact info.

Click here to email us and ask any more questions you may have          

info@IAFFLOCAL4317.ORG

 

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