Supervisors Consider Measure to Boost Firefighting Funding

Ballot measure would levy a half-cent countywide sales tax

Fresh off the heels of a successful and sweeping response to the massive Kincade Fire and widespread PG&E power shut-offs last week, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday will decide whether or not to move forward on a proposed ballot measure to fund emergency preparation and response efforts for future disasters.

If passed by a two-thirds margin on March 3, 2020, the proposed ballot measure would levy a half-cent countywide sales tax on to fund a variety of fire fighting and disaster preparedness projects.

The measure was in the works long before the Kincade Fire struck. The supervisors earmarked $500,000 in the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget to fund a political campaign to pass a sales tax measure to fund fire preparedness. On Tuesday, they’ll likely decide to move forward with the campaign.

The sales tax revenue, which is expected to total $51 million per year across the county, would be split among the numerous firefighting departments around the county.

The bulk of the new revenue—approximately $41 million per year – would go towards a variety of prevention and preparedness projects. These would include hiring 200 additional firefighters, the installation of hi-low sirens on all emergency vehicles, and increased vegetation management efforts intended to cut down on the risk of fires starting or spreading as easily.

Roughly $6.8 million each year—13.25 percent of the total revenue—would be earmarked for new equipment and facilities for city and fire district departments around the county.

Additionally, 5.5 percent of the funds each year – roughly $2.8 million – would be set aside to recruit and retain firefighters in some of the county’s smaller districts, including the Gold Ridge and Rancho Adobe fire protection districts.