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Will Measure D be good for the community of North Auburn-Ophir?

Concerns voiced by fire department officials and community members
By: Kylea Scott Journal Correspondent
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Today, North Auburn and Ophir residents decide whether or not to pay an additional tax for local fire protection. Fire officials say it is a necessary tax increase to prevent dwindling firefighting services in the area, while some residents have concerns. Measure D is a proposal to authorize a special tax for North Auburn and Ophir residents. According to the ballot statement, the tax will help fund fire protection, emergency medical, prevention services and equipment replacement. The tax will add another $40 annually to residential developments, $20 per unit for mobile home parks, and $0.046 per square foot for commercial/industrial development. Chris John, firefighter at Station 180 in Auburn, has been spreading information and awareness about Measure D. He said the department has done whatever it could to make sure everyone in the community is aware of the measure. They have gone door-to-door through subdivisions throughout the community, speaking directly to anyone who would listen, distributing flyers and posting signs. According to John, the signs and flyers promote Measure D and inform readers of the impacts if the measure doesn?t pass. ?A lot of business owners let us post signs on their property,? John said. ?This shows how important the measure is to our community.? As far as a continued campaign, Station 180 underwent training yesterday, and doesn?t know of any other planned efforts. John said they feel confident they have helped inform the community. Informative mailers were sent throughout the community, as well. According to Rui Cunha, assistant director at Placer County Executive Office, Measure D was instigated after all five voting members of the board of supervisors heard a discussion about the projected budget for the next 10 years. They found it necessary to provide the North Auburn-Ophir community with the opportunity to decide whether or not to keep current levels of fire service. Revenues were not adequate to fund fire service at its current level. This is mostly caused by devaluation of homes, which results in reduced property tax. ?The fire budget is not being cut,? Cunha said. ?Revenues are not available because property tax is decreasing and money isn?t coming in.? If Measure D does not pass, Cunha said, firefighting capability will be reduced by 33 percent. If residents decide against the proposed special tax, they will likely see increased response time, Cunha added. According to Cunha, North Auburn-Ophir Fire District responds to 2,400-2,500 calls for service every year. Calls frequently come in simultaneously. When multiple calls come in, the department will be unable to properly respond to all of them. Priority would be: first-call, first-serve, according to Cunha. ?The community will be gambling very significantly if they do not pass Measure D,? Cunha said. It is very important for the community to understand, Cunha said, if Measure D is passed, all of the revenue collected from taxpayers will stay in the North Auburn-Ophir fire area. None of that money can be used for anything other than fire service nor can it be used outside of the North Auburn-Ophir fire area. ?Local money for local fire service,? Cunha said. Richard Paulsen, Auburn resident, said he wants to see accountability. He wants to know how the current special fee, $48 per year implemented over 20 years ago, is being spent. He also would like to be informed of the relationship between Cal Fire and the Placer County Fire District. ?We need more information before approving another tax increase,? he said. Paulsen has helped spread his beliefs by sending a letter to the editor, and talking with a few neighbors. Another concerned voter is Jack Lucas, resident of Ophir for over 40 years. According to Lucas, the main issue with Measure D is the oversight. He wants to know how Cal Fire comes up with a dollar amount, and how long the measure will last. Lucas feels that the public should be given the opportunity to take a very close look at the budget before implementing another tax increase. He is also concerned about the relationship between Cal Fire and PCFD, and wants to know how Cal Fire ended up taking over this district. ?I?m not saying they don?t do a good job, or that they don?t need the money. I just think that we should be able to view the expenses,? Lucas said ?They should be able to do their jobs with the expenses they have. If they need to make cuts, well then they should make cuts,? he said. Lucas suggests training volunteer firefighters from the community to help with costs, and said he would even be interested in volunteering himself. Lucas has helped to inform the community by talking to individuals; he also submitted a letter to the editor regarding his concerns about Measure D.