District may ask voters for more money for fire

By Karen Brainard

With nearly half of property taxes Ramona Municipal Water District receives going to the Fire Department, the board plans to explore other funding options, which could include seeking voter approval to raise the fire EDU (equivalent dwelling unit) charge.

RMWD General Manager David Barnum told the board that the district’s fiscal year 2011-12 budget estimated fire and paramedic services to cost the district approximately $5.5 million. Just over $2.6 million of that was paid for by customers’ annual $188.52 fire EDU charge, according to Barnum.

Ambulance charges, fire prevention fees, and other revenue added another $775,000, leaving a shortfall of about $2.1 million, he said. That shortfall was covered by about half of the district’s allocation of property tax revenue, said Barnum.

The fire EDU has remained the same for approximately 17 years. It is a charge mandated by law and must go to a vote of the people to change it. Previous attempts were unsuccessful.

“It was soundly rejected by voters,” said Director Kit Kesinger.

Board President Bryan Wadlington noted that the district faces a shortfall for fire every year in the budget. Last year during the budget process Director Joe Zenovic suggested increasing the fire EDU.

Barnum recommended that the board review the funding mechanisms to determine if the current methodolgy to fund the fire and paramedic services is still approriate.

The board agreed to have its fire EDU ad hoc committee look into options.  Wadlington and Director Darrell Beck serve on that committee. Kesinger encouraged the ad hoc committee not to limit its scope of review.

A motion for  the ad hoc committee of Wadlington and Beck to discuss and investigate funding options passed 4-1 with Zenovic, who was interested in serving on the committee, opposing.

In other matters, Wadlington told the Sentinel the board did not send a representative to the Metropolitan Water District rates hearing in Los Angeles on March 12 because the board’s stance was represented in the resolution it approved on Feb. 28. In the resolution, the board  supported San Diego  County Water Authority’s lawsuit against Metropolitan.

During RMWD’s Feb. 28 meeting, Dennis Cushman, assistant general manager of the water authority, gave a presentation on the lawsuit that claims the Met is overcharging the water authority. CWA, which purchases water from Metropolitan, is the sole provider of water to the Ramona water district.

Cushman invited RMWD directors to attend the Met’s rates hearing to oppose  water rate increases.

Metropolitan is proposing water rate increases of 7.5 percent in 2012-13 and 5 percent in 2013-14. The Metropolitan board plans to vote in the proposed increases in April.

   
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