Measure F
Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Arcata Fire District and how are services it provides funded?

 

Arcata Fire District (AFD) was formed on June 1, 1944; the AFD is a single-purpose special district, independent from the County of Humboldt and the City of Arcata; governed by a board of directors who are elected directly by the voters.

 

5 Communities / 3 Stations / 1 District


The Fire District provides critical, emergency life-saving and fire protection services to the communities of McKinleyville, Manila, Bayside, Jacoby Creek and the City of Arcata. 


Presently, the District is funded from four primary sources:

  • 50% from property taxes (ad valorem)

  • 40% from the District's voter-approved initiatives.

    • 1997 special tax.

    • 2006 benefit assessment.

  • 8% from other government funds.

  • 2% from charges for services.

Why does the District need more funding?

  • It has been over 14 years since the District increased funding.  The District's special tax and benefit assessment do not have inflation factors built-in and have remained almost flat.  

  • Beginning in 2012, the District was awarded back-to-back FEMA grants, which allowed AFD to staff a third fire station. The grant funding ran out in 2017 and the District was not successful with acquiring additional grant funding from FEMA.  

  • The AFD Board opted to cut the 2017/18 and 2018/19 budgets in an effort to prevent station closures and layoffs. This plan continued in the passage of the 2019/20 budget. The District has been forced to reduce staffing that has required rotating station brownouts. This has resulted in a reduction in service delivery and a 17% increase in response times.

What has the District done to reduce costs/expenses?

  • Staffing has been reduced through attrition.  Due to a lack of security with the District’s inadequate funding career firefighters have been leaving the District at a rapid pace, during the last 6 months, two firefighters and a Senior Fire Captain left for jobs with other agencies out of the area. 

  • Two Battalion Chief’s retired unexpectedly which resulted in frozen positions and a burden on the rest of the employees covering those duties. 

  • Previously, the District operated with 21 line staff covering the fire engines and four chief officers in the administration. Now the District operates with 15 firefighters and 2 chief officers. This is why there are not enough firefighters to staff the third fire station.

  • The District is struggling to keep fire engines and trucks in service due to the deferred maintenance and repairs of the fleet. 

  • For the past three years, the District has operated in deficit and can no longer operate under this plan. All possible cuts have been made to the budget. Any further cuts will result in reduced services and delayed responses to emergencies.

Why did the Fire District wait so long to ask for more money?


In 2012, the District received two FEMA grants for extra staffing.  By acquiring these grants, it prolonged the need to ask taxpayers for additional funding. 
 

In March 2020, the District proposed funding measure (Measure R).  This measure narrowly missed the two-thirds approval by 3%.

 

Does the Fire District receive any funds from the County's Measure Z tax?


Funding from Measure Z does not pay for personnel. The District is very thankful that Measure Z has provided approximately $65,000 annually for the last three years to pay for contract dispatch services.  Measure Z has also provided one-time funding for select pieces of equipment.

Why can’t the Fire District pay its bills from sales taxes?


Unfortunately, the laws of California do not allow “special districts” like AFD to collect sales taxes.

 

How many firefighters are currently on-duty each day?


Currently, there is a minimum of four firefighters that staff two fire stations on 48-hour shifts. Two chief officers work day shifts, with one being on call at night and weekends.  The District also relies on other fire agencies; Blue Lake, CalFire, Fieldbrook, Humboldt Bay Fire, and Samoa-Peninsula assist with staffing when we have fires in the District. We naturally must respond to their calls for assistance as well.

Didn’t you just spend money to remodel your fire stations?


In 2015, the Arcata Volunteer Firefighters' Association (AVFA) led a capital improvement construction project to remodel and modernize the Arcata Fire Station, which the AVFA owns. The AVFA also took on the construction project costs for needed updates and required seismic retrofits for the McKinleyville Fire Station, which was a huge cost saving to the taxpayers. The AVFA funded the construction projects through grants, donations, and loans as follows:

  • $1,272,398 from the Orvamae Emmerson Endowment.

  • $291,663 from the Arcata Sunrise Rotary Community Foundation.

  • $250,000 from a donation in memory of Lily Lucchesi 

  • $815,759 from other funds raised by AVFA.


In addition to the grants and donations, the AVFA took on a bank loan of $1,890,063 for the capital construction costs to complete the McKinleyville station remodel.


The Fire District rents the Arcata Station from AVFA.  The AVFA uses the rent proceeds it collects for the Arcata station it owns, to pay the loan payments for the District-owned McKinleyville station. This incredible partnership between the Fire District and the AVFA has created huge savings for the taxpayers of our district!

Will there be fiscal accountability for Measure F funding?

 

A Citizen’s Oversight Committee will be appointed to ensure the funds are spent as promised through the language of the tax measure.  This will be in addition to the District’s legal responsibility to allow an independent auditor to review its funds annually.  

What happens if the District does not pass Measure F?
 

If Measure F fails at the polls, a community process for a drastic re-organization would need to immediately take place. Such a community discussion would need to include the possibility of consolidating firefighter staffing for the 62 square mile fire district into one central fire station.

 

  • Eliminating “first responder” medical aid calls would also need to be among the serious considerations.

  • In emergency responses to fires and first responder medical aid calls, five minutes can often make the difference for saving lives and preventing major damage to property.  This is why fire stations are always distanced apart.  

  • The District will likely lose its Class 3 rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). If the District drops to a Class 4, property owners can expect significant increases to their fire insurance premiums. 

  • Since the District has already cut every area of the budget, the next cuts would be to eliminate specialized apparatus such as the ladder and rescue trucks, reserve engines, and other response vehicles. In addition to the maintenance costs, the District will no longer have the available staff to operate the specialty equipment. 

  • The District will continue to seek volunteers.  OSHA laws and national standards will require volunteers to meet the training standards. 

  • The Arcata Station, which is owned by AVFA, and rented by the District, may be vacated in order to save the monthly rent the District pays to the AVFA. This would force the AVFA to default on their loan. If this happens, the District would have to somehow take over bank payments for the McKinleyville station remodel. All of the hard work put forward by the community who helped raise money for this project would be lost. If the Arcata station is lost, it will likely be lost permanently because of the limited availability for special-use property in Arcata. 

What will the new tax cost me in addition to what I already pay?
•    Vacant/Unimproved = $25 per year
•    Mobile Home in a Park = $75 per year
•    Single Family Residence = $98 per year
•    Rural Residence = $162 per year
•    Multi-Family Residential (2-4 units) = $269 per year
•    Multi-Family Residential (5-9 units) = $338 per year
•    Multi-Family Residential (10+ units) =  $405 per year
•    Commercial = $486 per year
•    Industrial = $810 per year
•    Retail over 10,000 sq feet = $850 per year