Kern Fire Dept. charges could spike
Shafter, Wasco face 200 percent increase
Last updated 8/12/2020 at 3:31am | View PDF
Shafter and Wasco are among nine communities facing a spike of up to 200% in the cost of services provided by the Kern County Fire Department.
Ryan Alsop, the chief administrative officer for the KCFD, said the department has been undercharging the cities it serves for years. “This is about getting full cost recovery for the services we are providing,” he said.
The department has been unable to buy new equipment, he said.
“After conducting a study, it was apparent that we were not getting the full value of the services we were providing,” he said.
The nine incorporated cities, which include Shafter and Wasco, will see their cost for those services increase by almost 200%.
Wasco Mayor Tilo Cortez said the increase is unaffordable. “I don’t know of many city budgets that can absorb that type of hit to their general fund,” he said.
Cortez added that the city was not given an opportunity to review the study before the county proposed a new seven-year plan, or even a chance to discuss the situation with county leaders.
The cities got a reprieve last week when it was announced that they would have three months to devise a plan to handle the increase.
The pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on almost every city’s budget, with Shafter anticipating a $4.5 million decrease in sales tax revenue for the next year. The action that was voted on by the Board of Supervisors gives cities until October to negotiate with the county over ways to pay the additional fire department cost.
David Couch, supervisor for the 4th District, said he thought the cities should coordinate with one another before presenting a proposal.
“I think our process is flawed,” Couch said. “I think that we should get the cities on board first, instead of trying to negotiate with the different cities after the fact.”
Council members Cathy Prout and Chad Givens said they did not have any information on the issue other than what was reported in the news. Givens said, “This will be conversation that we will have moving forward to determine the correct way to handle this that works best for all parties involved.”