Proposed El Dorado Hills Fire Department (EDHFD) annexation of Rescue Fire Protection District, September 20, 2019
Q. Why are El Dorado Hills Fire Department (EDHFD) and Rescue Fire Protection District (Rescue Fire) pursuing annexation?
A. The levels of fire protection services in the rural parts of El Dorado County have been a crucial concern for many years. According to the El Dorado County Grand Jury, many fire districts face inadequate tax revenue and increasing costs to deliver services to their communities.
Facing these same issues, EDHFD and Rescue Fire first entered into a “shared services agreement” in October 2013 over administrative services, training, fire protection, and Human Resources. This agreement was later revised to include the sharing of the El Dorado Hills Fire Chief through December 31, 2019.
Annexation would formalize the shared operations between EDHFD and Rescue Fire into a single agency and help realize the vision among county leaders for consolidations among fire agencies as a strategy to help ensure adequate community protection and long-term financial sustainability.
Q. What does annexation involve?
A. In effect, EDHFD would be absorbing Rescue Fire and assuming responsibility for providing fire services in Rescue’s service territory. EDHFD would also assume all of Rescue’s assets and financial obligations.
Q. What are the benefits of annexation?
A. Annexation of Rescue into EDHFD would provide reciprocal benefits to both agencies. Rescue Fire would benefit from EDHFD’s regional and specialized resources, while EDHFD would benefit from the additional advanced Life Support Engine Company that would be staffed within Rescue Fire’s jurisdiction. Both Departments and the citizens they serve will benefit from an increased depth of resources, operational flexibility, increased firefighter safety, and improvement in the time to achieve an effective firefighting force.
Q. Why is an annexation preferable to continuing the current shared services agreement?
A. The shared services agreement has been effective in creating efficiencies between the two departments and maintaining service levels in Rescue. Under this agreement, however, Rescue Fire makes annual payments to EDHFD for its staffing and services. Rescue Fire’s long-term fiscal sustainability remains a challenge because it receives only 10.5% of property tax in its jurisdiction. These tax revenues, property assessments, and other funding is insufficient to sustainably deliver adequate fire protection services.
Q. Will taxes or fees be increased for Rescue property owners?
A. No. The citizens of Rescue will not see any increase to their existing property taxes or benefit assessment as the result of annexation. Funding levels need to be increased through a new tax sharing agreement with El Dorado County or an agreement with the county to provide supplemental revenue.
Q. Will service levels in Rescue be impacted?
A. It is the intent of EDHFD to maintain existing service levels in Rescue and continue to work on solutions to enhance the level of service at Stations 81 & 83 where possible.
Station 83 is in a critical location to provide services to Rescue and other surrounding jurisdictions. EDHFD will continue to staff, enhance and maintain Station 83 at its current location. Station modernization is necessary to meet current-day regulations and provide for a higher level of employee safety. EDHFD is committed to ensuring that these modifications occur in a timely manner.
EDHFD intends on staffing station 81 during periods of increased wildland fire potential (Red Flag). Additional staffing may be achieved utilizing Career firefighters and Intern Firefighters through discussions with labor.
Q. Would the EDHFD Board include representation for Rescue residents?
A. Yes. EDHFD and Rescue Fire have discussed several options to ensure representation for Rescue. Options include expanding the EDHFD Board to include representatives from Rescue or replacing existing EDHFD Board seats with members representing Rescue. A formal plan would be finalized during the annexation process.
Q. Will Rescue’s fire stations, equipment, and uniforms be rebranded as El Dorado Hills Fire?
A. Preserving the rich history of the Community of Rescue, Rescue Fire Department, and the Rescue Volunteer Firefighters Association is very important. EDHFD intends on maintaining the Rescue Logo on Fire Stations in recognition of the History of the Department. Apparatus assigned to Stations 81 & 83 will have a joint Department logo recognizing the collaboration between Rescue and EDHFD.
Q. Will the Rescue Volunteer Firefighters Association be maintained?
A. The RVFA has played a vital role in the Rescue community and EDHFD plans to continue supporting and involving the RVFA in community and Department events.
Q. Since El Dorado Hills Fire is legally organized as a water district, will the water rights of Rescue property owners be impacted?
A. No. Annexation of Rescue into the El Dorado Hills County Water District/El Dorado Hills Fire Department will have no effect on the citizens of Rescue as it relates to water rights.
Q. What will happen with Rescue firefighters and staff?
A. EDHFD would transition each Rescue employee to the equivalent EDHFD Rank/Position and assign the closest associated pay scale. No employee will receive a reduction in pay or rank.
Q. How long will; the annexation process take?
A. The steps required by law for annexation require approximately one year. The process can take longer than this between pre-application steps and the date an annexation becomes effective.
Q. Will there be public meetings?
A. Yes. EDHFD, Rescue Fire and county agencies will inform residents of the dates, times, and locations of public meetings.
Q. Who reviews and approves the annexation?
A. The El Dorado County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) has responsibility for processing and approving the annexation. The boards for both EDHFD and Rescue Fire must also approve the annexation terms. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors must approve any reallocation of property tax revenue or other finance sharing arrangement.