RHA Sacramento Valley persuades Fire District to hold off on new tax
Strong opposition led by RHA Sacramento Valley persuaded the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District to put its proposed property tax assessment on hold.
This action spared rental property owners from a new annual assessment of $14 to $30 per unit.
RHA, a chapter of the California Apartment Association, was the first business group to oppose the assessment and others quickly followed.
The Fire District had been seeking a special vote-by-mail election to gain approval of a new “Fire Suppression Benefit Assessment.”
If approved, the assessment would have raised $12 million annually to reopen five engine companies closed during the recession.
RHA – a chapter of the California Apartment Association — was the first business group to oppose the assessment and others quickly followed, including the Sacramento Taxpayers Association and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. RHA was in the process of organizing a CAAPAC-funded opposition campaign with several property owner associations when the Fire District announced its decision.
While fire safety is important, RHA opposed the assessment for several reasons. According to RHA Executive Director Jim Lofgren, the Fire District has a poor record of fiscal management, especially regarding personnel costs. Local media reported the median compensation for Fire District employees in 2010 was $128,805, and over 100 former employees receive pensions in excess of $100,000.
RHA believed the Fire District understated the property tax revenue projections used to determine the assessment. Calculating property value increases of only 3 percent per year required the assessment to be much higher than necessary to generate $12 million per year.
The Fire District also did not consider the cumulative effect that its proposed tax would have on property owners, who already face other new assessments, utility rate hikes and other cost increases.
Finally, the proposed assessment violated Proposition 218. According to Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Fire District improperly used a benefit assessment, which only requires a majority vote of property owners, rather than a special tax that requires a two-thirds vote of all voters. If passed, the assessment would face a legal challenge by his organization.
The fire chief for the district agreed to meet with RHA before attempting any future property tax.