Subsequent to the City filing an action for declaratory relief, the County served a claim required by the Government Code demanding immediate payment of $903,646.10 for fire services provided between January 1, 2014 and September 30, 2014 (three-quarters of the calendar year).
The actual cost of those services is the subject of that declaratory relief action filed by the City on January 6, 2015.
According to City Manager Keith Breskin, for a number of years, the City has been working with the County to bring the cost of its fire services in alignment with its ability to pay those costs, based on the revenue generated from its Structural Fire Tax.
The County continues to take the position that the City’s ability to pay for the services is not relevant and that the level and cost of service is subject to the County’s absolute control. Contrary to the representations made by the County, the City has never refused to pay for the cost of fire and emergency services, only for the cost in excess of what the City can afford.
State Law provides a mechanism for government agencies like the City and County to settle disputes like this and the City is optimistic that the County will work toward that end, Keith explains.
In its formal response to the County’s claim, and consistent with its offers to the County for the past three years, the City offered to pay the claim in the full amount of its Structural Fire Fund receipts for January through September, 2014, in the amount of $672,363.71.
Structural Fire Funds are property tax revenues separate from general property taxes that are paid to the City (and other Riverside County cities and the County) in order to pay for fire services.
The City’s complaint against Riverside County arose from its inability to negotiate a modification of its contract for fire services based on the provisions of that contract, and that litigation continues to move forward.
“We have taken legal action reluctantly,” says Keith. “The City always has, and remains, prepared to talk with the County and CalFire officials at any time. We want to resolve these issues cooperatively.”