No new taxes, fire officials confirm

A sign warning Latrobe residents that they would pay higher taxes if the El Dorado Hills Fire Department annexed the community’s fire department brought about 20 concerned resident to Millers Hill School earlier this month.

The sign was wrong.

“Will your tax rate change after the annexation? Absolutely not,” Latrobe Fire Chief Chris Couper assured the audience.

In June, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors approved an AB8 adjustment for parcels within the now-dissolved Latrobe district to match the rate El Dorado Hills Fire currently receives in its district. Latrobe’s rate was 4.3 cents per dollar; EDH Fire receives 17 cents per dollar. This adjustment comes from the county’s General Fund and is not passed on to taxpayers.

The Latrobe district’s $60 per parcel tax will remain in place.

What Latrobe residents will see when the annexation is complete is a stronger fire department, according to Couper.

The El Dorado Hills/Latrobe Plan for Service states: “The Latrobe community would be staffed 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days per week, with after-hour response from volunteers, apprentices and the closest staffed resource, most likely Station 87,” and, “Chief officer coverage would be 24/7/365 by the shift battalion chief or the assigned duty chief responding typically from Station 85.

“It is the intent of the El Dorado Hills Fire Department and the EDHFD Board of Directors to fully staff the Latrobe area with a three-person engine company (captain, engineer, firefighter/paramedic) 24/7/365 as soon as practical,” the document continues.

El Dorado Hills fire officials are currently working with Latrobe’s volunteer firefighters to ensure they have all the training and certifications necessary when the annexation is finalized, EDH Fire Chief Dave Roberts said. El Dorado Hills firefighters are also training, familiarizing themselves with Latrobe’s roads and properties.

El Dorado Hills and Latrobe’s fire department have worked together for years, both chiefs noted, sharing resources, training opportunities and equipment. Couper called El Dorado Hills “A great older brother.”

“They know whatever they invest in Latrobe will come back and benefit them,” he said.

The annexation ensures Latrobe’s fire services remain intact, said Latrobe Fire Board Director Blain Stumpf, and keeping the volunteers is an important part of that. “El Dorado Hills is going to come down and back up our people,” he said. “It’s not like El Dorado Hills comes in and our people go away.”

What’s most important is quality of the service Latrobe residents are going to receive, added El Dorado Hills Fire Prevention Specialist Wally Jukes, a Latrobe resident and longtime Latrobe Fire Department volunteer who also served as Latrobe’s volunteer fire chief for about eight years. “It does’t matter the color of the shirt or the color of the patch,” he said.

Negotiations to combine the neighboring fire district began about two years ago. Local funding that kept Latrobe and other small El Dorado County fire districts afloat had disappeared. The Board of Supervisors eliminated its Aid to Fire program in 2011, providing limited financial patches in the few years following, and this happened around the same time property values took a dive.

“Latrobe’s fire department will cease to exist if annexation doesn’t occur.” Couper said, explaining that it would be insolvent in less than three years as the board has already had to dip into reserves to cover operating costs.

Earlier this year both fire departments’ Board of Directors approved the plan for service and annexation, which is now going through the LAFCO process. A second LAFCO public workshop will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at Millers Hill School in Latrobe. LAFCO’s annexation approval hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27 in Placerville. If LAFCO receives no valid, written protests the commissioners will conditionally approve the annexation at the Aug. 27 hearing; if valid protests do come in, a second hearing will be scheduled, according to LAFCO Executive Officer José Henriquez.

If LAFCO receives valid protests from 25 to 50 percent of the affected population, the annexation will go on the ballot, Henriquez added. If more than 50 percent of Latrobe’s population protests the annexation will fail.

To read the El Dorado Hills Fire Department/Latrobe Fire Protection District Annexation Plan for Service visit edhfire.com and click on “Documents and Forms” under “Our Services.”

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Posted by on Jul 17 2014.
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