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The district points to four crippling financial punches.
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"We have fought this battle twice and twice now voters have said they aren't willing to pay to keep up the service levels," Wells said. "Contra Costa has already lost nine fire stations in the past few years an now, we'll lose four more.
Without the roughly $17 million a year the tax would generate toward its $100 million budget, Contra Costa Fire District officials say must shutter up to 10 of the district's 28 stations in the next several years.
Despite 10 percent pay cuts, a lower pay scale for new hires, numerous unfilled positions and widespread deferred equipment repair and purchases, the district started burning through its reserves in 2008.
Negative public sentiment about firefighter pensions, a plethora of tax measures on the ballot and the steep two thirds requirement all hurt Measure Q's chances.
Measure Q asked voters to approve a temporary $75 a year parcel tax on single family homes, $37.50 for condominiums and establish a tiered fee for commercial, industrial and other properties.
"As a firefighter, I feel bad. There will be a significant change in the level of fire service in this county. But we tried."
Voters on Tuesday torched a temporary fire safety parcel tax in the Contra Costa Fire District and effectively shuttered up to a third of the agency's 28 fire stations.
gotten the message, said Vince Wells, president of United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County Local 1230.
The Contra Costa board of supervisors put the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot hoping to bail out the financially ailing county fire district.
It also eliminated terminal pay unused vacation, sick leave, administrative and other pay from the retirement calculation formula for current public employees including firefighters.
It's the second fire agency loss at the polls this year in Contra Costa.
With 265 sworn personnel for 600,000 residents, the district is already staffed at half the industry standard recommended by Omega Constellation Steel the International City/County Management Association. In Contra Costa, only East Contra Costa and the Rodeo Hercules fire agencies have lower staffing levels.
Contra Costa County Measure Q
So far, the courts have consistently ruled that employers cannot take away current employees' vested benefits, although there are several pending cases stemming from June ballot measures in San Jose and San Diego.
Fewer stations and firefighters will lead to greater fire damage, more severe injuries and higher numbers of deaths, the chief has said.
all precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Measure Q was well short of the two thirds voter approval it needed to pass even though a majority supported it.
Local 1230 had been negotiating a less expensive retirement package for new firefighters, but pension legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown made those discussions moot.
And the retirement system altered the way it allocated annual pension costs after other member agencies argued they were unfairly subsidizing the benefit rich fire districts. The shift dramatically increased the fire district's contribution rate.
No firefighters will lose their jobs when the first four stations close in January because the district has numerous unfilled vacancies and has been covering shifts with overtime.
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The law reduces retirement benefits for public safety employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013, and requires all workers to pay half of their Omega Seamaster 300 Vintage Bracelet
East Contra Costa Fire District voters turned down a parcel tax in June and the district closed half of its six stations. The federal government later awarded East County a two year grant but the lengthy hiring process has delayed reopening the first station until at least mid November.
The recession devastated pension investment portfolios and the agency had to put in more cash each year to pay for more generous retirement benefits awarded in 2002.
Health care costs skyrocketed nationwide.
While critics focus on pensions, Measure Q has no impact on retirement benefits,
Property tax receipts the vast majority of the district's money plummeted along with housing values in the economic downturn. The district estimates it lost $32 million between 2008 and 2012.
"Twice now, voters have looked into firefighters' eyes and said checked the no box," said Contra Costa Taxpayers Association Executive Director Kris Hunt. "Many people feel they are trading pensions for service and they resent that. This is a pretty clear case of voters being faced with a concrete decision and making a choice."
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