Residents in the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District will be asked this November to approve a special tax, Measure Z, which is aimed at keeping all three fire stations in the district open.
Measure Z would levy an additional $60 tax per parcel for the next eight years in order to raise funds that Fire Chief Frank Treanor says are desperately needed to keep all three fire stations running and avoid laying off about a quarter of its staff.
The measure is one of the few that the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association has endorsed this fall.
"Frank Treanor demonstrated that he made the appropriate cuts where he can; made efficient use of the resources he had," said Dan Drummond, Petaluma resident and executive director of the taxpayers association.
Drummond added that the tax was a short-term one that wouldn't affect future generations.
Treanor explained that since 2006, the district had made numerous cuts to save money. It cut its expenses by 25 percent. It also paid off its unfunded pension liability and reduced the health care plan it offers for a savings of $231,000 since 2009.
A common concern of taxpayers' groups is that too much money is being spent on pensions; Treanor explained that Rancho Adobe already had a less generous formula than almost all neighboring firefighters unions. In addition, he said, his firefighters are already paid an average of 22 percent less than other firefighters in the area.
"After doing all these things, trying to be as responsible as we could and keeping the budget fairly level, the devaluation of property has caused tax revenues to be much less than we need," he said.
Last year, the district operated in a $177,000 deficit. This year, a $384,000 deficit is projected.
The measure would generate about $426,000 annually, Treanor said, enough to keep all three fire stations running all year, including one in Penngrove and another at 99 Liberty School Road in Petaluma.
If the measure doesn't pass, Treanor said, he would have to reduce his staff of 16 full-time firefighters and 12 part-time firefighters by a quarter and "brown out" one of his three fire stations each day.
In 2007, Treanor initiated a bond measure to pay for new engines. That measure failed by 2 percent of the vote. There hasn't been a tax increase in the district in 19 years, he said.
"I don't like taxes either," he acknowledged. "I'd appreciate if someone did all their due diligence before putting a tax forward, and we definitely have the last couple of years."
(Contact Jamie Hansen at jamie.hansen@argus courier.com.)