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Tax to keep fire station open fails

It appears that residents in the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District on Tuesday rejected a special tax, Measure Z, designed to keep all three fire stations in the district open.

With all 43 precincts reporting but some absentee ballots left to be counted, the tax has garnered 62.6 percent of the vote; 66.7 percent is needed for it to pass.

Measure Z would have levied 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 the district's staff.

"First of all, my reaction is to say thank you very much to all those people who believe in the fire district," said Treanor, "But there's a reality here. We have a budget deficit of $387,00 a year, and the only way we're going to come close to balancing the budget now is by (temporarily) closing a fire house. "

Now that the measure has failed, Treanor said, he will have had 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.

Already, the fire house in Cotati was closed on Wednesday as a result of the measure failing, he said. The changes will affect part-time firefighters the most and should not result in layoffs, Treanor said.

Treanor explained earlier that since 2006, the district had made numerous cuts to save money, but that even so, the devaluation of property in the area resulted in taxes simply not bringing in enough for the district to operate as it has been.

Last year, the district operated with a $177,000 deficit. This year, a more-than $384,000 deficit is projected.

The measure would have generated 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.

(Contact Jamie Hansen at jamie.hansen@arguscourier.com.)


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