Measure FD imposes a parcel tax on all unincorporated areas and the 58 cities which utilize the LA County Fire Department (LACoFD). A parcel tax requires a two-thirds vote to pass. It was placed on the ballot by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
The tax, six percent per square foot on improved housing (not the property around it), would cost $90 to $120 per year for most properties, according to Andrew “Drew” Smith, Battalion Chief, Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD).
“I get it on getting taxed,” he said. “We aren’t funded out of L.A. County’s general fund. We’re funded by property taxes and haven’t had an increase in a tax measure since 1997.”
Smith, a renowned fire behaviorist, was instrumental in protecting Topanga during the Woolsey fire. He predicted three hours in advance where the fire would threaten Topanga, in time to tactically stage ground crews and call up air support.
He described LACoFD as a customer delivery service like no other. “We have an air force, heavy equipment like tractors and bulldozers, engines and stations that need upgrades, helicopters for the Wildland Division and paramedic airlift helicopters,” he said. “The list goes on, especially when it comes to upgrading fire stations too small to accommodate the new and larger fire engines.”
In a February 14 editorial, the LA Times endorsed the measure, citing that “We’re likely to see more fires on this scale as the climate changes and construction continues to move farther into wilderness areas. Separately, demand has exploded for paramedic services, which usually are provided by fire departments. Improvements in emergency response equipment have made it possible to save more people—but only if the equipment is available.
“The L.A. County Fire Department is in some sense separate from the rest of county government. To keep up with rising costs, it had to go to voters in 1997 for a parcel tax. Measure FD would supplement that.”
In its Pro argument, the League of Women Voters writes: “The increase in fires and the growing, aging population require more resources to ensure that first responders are available for both fires and health emergencies. This tax will go directly to the County Fire Department; it cannot be mingled with General Funds.”
Against the measure is the California Taxpayers Association, whose president, Robert Gutierrez recently wrote in the Los Angeles Daily News, “Measure FD was poorly drafted and rushed to the ballot without public input. The measure lacks taxpayer safeguards, raises fairness concerns, and would make Los Angeles even less affordable.”