OCEANO, Calif. - For the second time in two years, the Oceano Community Services District is asking property owners for a tax increase to fund fire protection services.
Measure A-22, on the June Primary Election ballot, would raise property taxes within the Oceano Community Services District boundary by 15 dollars a month, or 180 dollars a year, for each residential and commercial property.
If approved by voters, the special tax revenue would fund Oceano's only fire station on Front Street which is operating less than seven days a week.
"It's about providing 24-7 service response times to the community", said OCSD General Manager Will Clemens. "We continue to get service from Five Cities Fire even when the station is closed, but that service has to come either from the Grover Beach or Arroyo Grande Fire stations".
"We have our last reserve firefighter retiring at the end of the month, so our station will only be open one-third of the time when he retires," Clemens said. "With a successful ballot measure we'll be able to hire full-time firefighters to keep the station open 24-7".
A similar property tax increase proposal failed by less than a dozen votes to achieve the required two-thirds majority in the 2020 Primary election.
"66% of Oceano/Halcyon residents say they wanted it so we're giving them another chance", said long-time Oceano resident and current OCSD Board President Karen White.
"I'm not rich, I live on a fixed income and I know what it's like but I also know what it's like to lay on the floor or ground with a broken hip and wait for the fire department to come."
"It's the little things that a local fire department comes for," White continued.
"Lift-assist, that means somebody has fallen down and they can't get up and nobody can get them up, you call the fire department and they come and pick people up. They come and help the little old lady whose husband is down and she can't deal with it at three o'clock in the morning. Who do you call? You call 911? Who comes? Five Cities Fire Authority."
Measure A-22 would allow for annual property tax increases of no more than two percent a year.
It would also create a Citizens Advisory Committee to ensure the special tax revenue is spent only on emergency medical and fire services.
"We have a limited ability to raise funds, as compared to a city that has much more options", OCSD General Manager Clemens said. "Whether it be transient occupancy taxes, cannabis taxes, sales taxes, really all we have is property taxes to fund our services."
Oceano property owners are divided on the June ballot measure amid difficult and inflationary economic times.
"It's hard to say at this stage of the game, with the way things are going up in prices", said Oceano resident Alfred Ramey. "Everybody is pulled thin on their finances, everything is uncertain with what's going on in the world, people gotta dig deep into their own conscience and figure that out. Especially with rising prices and jobs falling and everything that's going on, it's a tough decision this time."