MORAGA -- Higher-than-projected property tax revenue means the cash-strapped Moraga-Orinda Fire District will add about $507,000 next fiscal year to an ailing general fund being kept stable through loans from its capital projects fund -- and possibly reduce the borrowing, according to the district's top fire official.
Fire Chief Stephen Healy announced March 7 that the district has received updated preliminary property tax revenue projections for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, showing property tax revenues increasing 5.9 percent from the previous year.
That accompanies news that the district's employer contribution rates for current and past employee benefits managed by the Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Association are projected to decrease beginning in fiscal year 2015 until fiscal year 2019-20.
The positive financial projections followed another announcement by the chief last week that the district and firefighters union -- United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County Local 1230 -- have entered mediation after fire officials declared in late January an impasse in contract negotiations.
"It's nice to have good news for a change," Healy said later. He declined to comment further on the developments.
Union leadership also welcomed the updated financial projections.
"Those changes are something we're happy about," said Local 1230 President Vince Wells.
The property tax revenue projections follow recent district estimates of $17.8 million in property tax revenue next fiscal year. That amount climbed to $17.9 million after the district received $166,000 in state homeowner's property tax relief funds, said Administrative Services Director Gloriann Sasser. Property tax revenue, which makes up the bulk of the general fund, is now expected to total $18.63 million next fiscal year.
However, more than $2.9 million of that revenue will be set aside for the ongoing repayment of about $24.1 million in pension obligation bond debt.
Administrators moved more than $2 million in general fund reserves into the "debt service" fund last year after discovering previous administrators had failed to record the money as restricted; the district uses property tax revenue to make the annual payment.
As for the revised employer contribution projections, Healy explained in a statement that the district will see its contribution rate of 80.03 percent -- adopted by the retirement association -- decline 3.77 percent in fiscal year 2016-17 after a 0.42 percent increase in 2015-16. The trend is expected to continue though fiscal year 2019-20. The savings to the district as a result of the revisions is still being calculated, Healy said.
But because employer contribution rates are projected to stay at about 80 percent of the district's estimated $7 million payroll next fiscal year, MOFD will still have to make a $5.2 million payment to the county retirement association.
The next district board meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Moraga Library community room, 1500 St. Mary's Road.