OAKLEY -- East Contra Costa Fire District directors have agreed to present constituents with several possible configurations of a proposed parcel tax instead of just one.
In an effort to determine what voters are most likely to approve, the board on Monday decided to solicit opinions on three ways of structuring the tax at a round of informational meetings scheduled later this month.
In addition to their original idea of pursuing a five-year tax that starts at $98 and rises to a maximum of $111, directors now also will float the idea of a flat tax of $99 over the same period.
In addition, they intend to suggest a seven-year parcel tax of an as-yet-indeterminate size that would leave the district with only a 10 percent reserve by the time it expires.
Stakeholders can learn more about each option at seven special meetings that the district will hold starting Jan. 9.
The schedule is as follows:
All meetings start at 7 p.m.
Whatever parcel tax the district ends up pitching to property owners between now and the June 3 election is intended to keep its five fire stations open while directors search for a long-term solution to the agency's chronic financial woes.
A $7.8 million, one-time federal grant that East Contra Costa Fire received in August 2012 will expire in November, creating pressure on the district to get a parcel tax passed before that source of revenue disappears. If the effort fails, directors say East Contra Costa Fire will be forced to close two of the stations, crippling its ability to operate effectively.
"It's like putting a Band-Aid on an amputee," said Director Ronald Johansen.
Oakley resident Ben Andres didn't see it that way, however.
Voters already showed the board what they think of paying more for fire services when they rejected the first parcel tax the district put on the June 2012 ballot, Andres said.
That proposal called for $197 per parcel annually for 10 years.
In related business, the board appointed a committee to review the five bids the district received after soliciting consulting firms to help present its case for a parcel tax to the public.
Reach Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.