OAKLEY -- East Contra Costa Fire Protection District's board agreed Monday to start thinking about what features it would include in a parcel tax if it put another one on the ballot.

Directors are trying to drum up enough revenue to hold onto the agency's 48 firefighters and keep its five stations open before money runs out, which could happen late next year when a federal grant expires.

"If we do not have a funding increase there will be layoffs and station closures," said board President Joel Bryant, who warned that a repetition of this scenario would cost more lives.

Discovery Bay resident Bob Mankin similarly urged the board to pursue a parcel tax.

"Absolutely move forward," he said. "This is a fire district that's on life support and in about 15 months someone's going to pull the plug."

Representatives of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association and Contra Costa Republican Party were less than enthusiastic about the idea of saddling residents with another obligation, however.

"I think you're going to have a very difficult time," said the local Republican party's 2nd Vice Chairman Hal Bray of the likelihood that the district will win voters over.

He said his group would oppose any additional tax unless it were convinced that the fire district had exhausted every other option.

But nobody disputed that the agency is in bad shape.

East Contra Costa Fire closed three of its six remaining stations -- it already had shuttered two -- after voters rejected a parcel tax in June 2012. Although the district was able to restore those cuts later that year when it received a two-year federal grant, that money runs out in November 2014.

The district might opt to levy a flat amount on each of the approximately 44,000 parcels within its boundaries or assess a tax based on variables such as the size of each and how the land is being used.

East Contra Costa Fire's consideration of a parcel tax would not become official until directors adopt a resolution calling for an election.

If they do, it likely would be in June 2014.

The vote came on the heels of the board approving the agency's $11.9 million primary budget for 2013-14, which has a projected ending fund balance that misses the goal of finishing the year with a 20 percent cushion.

Reach Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.