Friday, April 18, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Cameron Park opens the door to cuts in fire

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From page A5 | February 20, 2011 | 12 Comments

CAMERON PARK — Faced with lower property tax intake this year and a grim prediction for next, Cameron Park has formally paved the way toward reducing the number of firefighters standing post in the community.
In its monthly meeting last week, the board voted unanimously in favor of giving Cal Fire the required 120 days notice to potentially reduce staffing levels.
The district’s current contract with the fire agency is set up to fund a staff of 19 firefighters (not including battalion chiefs and office staff), but a minimum of 16 is required to fully staff the engines based in the district. Currently there are 17 on staff, since two vacancies remain.
Responding to negative reaction from one resident in attendance at the meeting, Cameron Park Community Services District Director Rich Green clarified that the vote does not guarantee layoffs.
“Right now we just haven’t gotten to that point,” he said.
Resident Barbara Rogers held back tears as she chimed in during the open forum session prior to the vote. Rogers, who regularly spoke out against construction of the Community Center during what she called a time of economic instability, said public safety should not be compromised.
“Four years ago I said this is where we’d end up,” she said. “And now it’s on the plate. I don’t care if you have to close this building and close every park, we cannot afford to cut our fire service.”
District Battalion Chief Joe Tyler said residents should keep in mind that the number of firefighters has gone up and down since the fire agency first contracted service with the district. He also mentioned the two current vacant positions.
“We’ve gone from 16 personnel to 18 to 21 to 16 to 19,” he said. “So it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a change in the number of staff.”
Earlier in the meeting, Tyler actually outlined an annual contractual amendment agreement, announcing that the district would save $13,615 for the current budget year, stemming from decreases in the benefit rate and increased retirement contributions by employees.
District Manager Fred Smith said he wasn’t sure if the district has previously given the 120 day notice since first contracting with Cal Fire in 1996, but Director Alan Clarke confirmed that a letter of this kind had not been issued under his tenure, which began in 2002.
When asked about the possibility of staffing fewer than 16 firefighters, the threshold that would decrease equipment available to the district, Smith said he doesn’t see it happening.
“I would assume we would look at making cuts to other services before that happens,” he said.
Smith also issued a press release Friday announcing the significant drop in tax assessment earnings.
In it he writes, “If the current decline in revenues remains consistent with the first disbursement of property taxes, the district will be faced with a 30 percent decrease from last year’s property tax allocation.”
He also states that the annual tax disbursement for this fiscal year is forecast to end up $500,000 under budget.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” he said Saturday. “And I’m going to be looking closely at every dollar we spend.”

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Discussion | 12 comments

  • Barbara RogersFebruary 20, 2011 - 6:47 pm

    Finally, the CSD cannot hide the fact any longer that they are in big financial trouble. Thank you Rich Green for being honest and open with citizens of our community. Yes I have been saying it meeting after meeting that the bottom was going to collapse, but the prior board and staff jus sat there like mutes, acting as if the housing bubble would not burst here. I am sickened by this and I meant what I said at the 2/17/11 meeting. They can board up the community center and close every park before they reduce staff on fire engines, or have to close a station. I was told over and over that the District was not in trouble, well I guess they were wrong....

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  • CP ResidentFebruary 20, 2011 - 9:11 pm

    Barbara, Thank you for saying what I'm sure so many others think. Cameron Park is a town where we can not afford to be without an adequate amount of firefighters, especially during the summer months. Cut back on other things. I agree with you 100% regarding boarding up the community center and closing every park in this town if that's what it takes, but leave the firefighters alone.

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  • Barbara RogersFebruary 20, 2011 - 10:15 pm

    I hope that this article wakes up the citizens in Cameron Park. We need more people to come to the meetings and force the truth out of the people who have been hiding the truth from us. I have tons of information that is going to come to light very soon. This District has been in financial trouble since 2008, it is time to open up this can of worms. I have a question for the CSD mgt. and staff, where is all the fire dept. reserves?

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  • Retired Fire ChiefFebruary 20, 2011 - 10:30 pm

    I have lived in this community for over 20 years. I voted against the community center. The first time the CSD tried to sneak the vote through, the second time they just lied about the numbers. The CSD is very good at not telling us the truth, they are artists when it come to withholding public records when requested. How about the $500,000 that was paid to Beigler over what, 4 years? We will not sacrifice our public safety and emergency personnel to operate a 10 lane pool that was built for the Sharks swim team. Shutter the center, drain the pool, close the gym, you will not get away with cutting the fire dept. Mr. Clarke you have some explaining to do. I say we need to get the State Attorney General's office involved...Johnson and Cater, you better hide...the truth is going to come out....

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  • Barbara RogersFebruary 20, 2011 - 10:31 pm

    Retired Fire Chief - dont' forget Gerger...he told me in October of 2010 that the District was not in financial trouble. What a lie that was...

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  • Matt SilvaFebruary 21, 2011 - 10:12 am

    I have no idea who posted comments as the retired fire chief. It is not me...but I will say this... The Cameron Park CSD recently published on the CSD website the 2008/2009 audit. It shows that the CSD ended the FY with a $2.5 million carry over balance in the General Fund account. I have reviewed the 08/09 audit, and all of the audits for the past 10 years. The Cameron Park Fire Department has contributed $2.6 million to the General Fund balance as of June 30, 2009. The reason there is only $2.5 million left in the account, instead of $2.6 million, is because the other programs combined have operated in the red. The CSD Board has been reckless and irresponsible since Alan Clarke became a Director in 2002. He quietly lobbies behind the scenes for a new Fire Tax when the Fire Department has been saving an average of $200k per year. The funds saved by the Fire Department are needed to replace fire engines and other Fire Department capital equipment...not to carry other CSD programs. Fire has set $2.6 million aside over the past 10 years and yet they were not able to purchase a new engine with these saved funds in 2010 to replace a 25 year old engine that will no longer pump water and has exceeded its' useful life. WHY???

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  • Jared BrittanFebruary 21, 2011 - 8:23 pm

    But the community center is so nice and pretty.

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  • Barbara RogersFebruary 21, 2011 - 8:38 pm

    For the record, the author name "retired fire chief" is not Matt Silva. Jared Brittan, I certainly hope you are joking, "nice and pretty". Well we will see is nice and pretty can pay the bills...

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  • ConcernedFebruary 22, 2011 - 10:15 pm

    I would think there would be more comments on this article. Come on residents of Cameron Park, are you getting a little concerned over this news? What will it take for the community to rise up and push the CSD mgt., staff and board do the right thing? Who gave them them the right to snatch funds the fire dept. saved to save other programs? And why did this paper bury this important story on the same page the obits are on? Ridiculous, this story is front page news!!!!

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  • slow&ezFebruary 23, 2011 - 8:13 am

    I hear a lot of complaining from the same people. Where are the suggestions that help the community? Your diatribe belongs on a party line.

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  • Barbara RogersFebruary 23, 2011 - 8:47 am

    To slow&ez; your choice of words (diatribe) leads me to believe you may be one of the people who kept the fact from the public that the CSD was having money issues back in 2008. I would love to have a face to face discussion with you. What can we do to assist the community? I have been saying for years now that the CSD was headed for trouble. Where was the community and where are they now? They pay an attorney hundreds of thousand of dollars over a 4-5 year period and they might have to reduce staffing for the fire dept? I don't think so. I know the truth, do you?

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  • Matt SilvaFebruary 23, 2011 - 10:02 am

    Many suggestions have been offered...but ignored. Cameron Park CSD made a mistake when they pulled out of the El Dorado County accounting system in 2008. I have asked the CSD to see copies of the detailed revenue and expenditure reports for Fire, Parks, Recreation and Admin. These reports were provided for free by the County. Since 2008 these reports are no longer available and the CSD has never replaced them with equivalent reports. When it comes to reconciling expenditures and analyzing budgets the GM may as well drive down the freeway with a blindfold on. Very dangerous in the current economic environment. SUGGESTION #1...Move your funds from Umpqua Bank back to El Dorado County and use the El Dorado County accounting system again. In 2005 the CSD discovered that a significant area in the District (about 10%) had stopped contributing property tax revenue to the CSD way back in the early 1990's. The taxes were still being collected, but Cameron Park's share was not being distributed back to the CSD. The CSD met with the County and the County immediately started to take steps to fix that problem from 2006 forward. But the CSD decided to file a lawsuit against the County for back property taxes. SUGGESTION #2...Settle the suit with El Dorado County, make sure that all of the residences in Cameron Park are paying their fair share of property taxes to the CSD from here forward. The County was fixing the problem until you sued them. We still have some residences in Cameron Park today that do not contribute property taxes to Cameron Park CSD. I believe it is more than $100k per year we are losing. Stop trying to squeeze an extra 2 or 3 million from the County for back taxes. THEY DON'T HAVE IT!!! Between 1997 and 2003 the CSD spent an average of $10,000 per year on attorneys/legal expense. Over the past five years they have spent more than $500,000 on attorneys...much of that was pure waste as a result of a reckless Board. I reviewed the legal invoices and gave the CSD a 30 page report with SUGGESTIONS on how to stop the bleeding a year ago. It was all ignored by the BOD. The last audit showed a $2.5 million balance in the General Fund at the end of FY 08/09. There wouldn't be one nickle in the General Fund balance today if the Fire Department had not set aside $2.6 million for future needs. But the Fire Department can't touch it because the other General Fund programs combined keep running in the red and tapping into the money the Fire Department has been saving all these years. We have at least one Board member that wants to put a fire tax on the residents of Cameron Park. SUGGESTION #3...Forget about taxing the public for the Fire Department when the Fire Department is contributing $200k a year back into the General Fund. Fix the problem with Parks, Recreation and Admin so that the Fire Department doesn't have to carry them. In 2006, the CSD was given the green light to annex a new subdivision into the CSD for Park and Recreation services. They fought a hard battle to get it and all the CSD needed to do is finish filing the paperwork. It has been sitting for 4 years when it could bring another $100k per year into the CSD coffers. The paperwork has been sitting for 4 years because, in my opinion, the Board has not been able to establish an experienced and qualified long term presence at the General Manager position. They have changed GM's 5 times since 2003 so there is a constant learning curve and important things keep falling through the cracks. The current GM has been here for less than a year...and it appears some members of the Board are ready to get rid of him too. SUGGESTION #4...Establish an experienced and lasting management presence...AND SUPPORT HIM/HER. I am curious "slow&ez"...what suggestions do you have to close the estimated $600,000 shortfall in this years' property tax revenues? Or are you only inclined to attack members of the public who have taken the time to do their homework? My guess is you are either 1) Uninformed about what is really happening at the CSD; or 2) A buddy of one of the Board members...or 3) You have been drinking too much of the CSD's kool aid.

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