It has become clear through various emails that I have received as well as the most recent Desert Trail editorial about the future of fire protection in the city of 29 Palms that there is a tremendous knowledge gap about what are the facts and what are the assumptions of the general public in regards to who pays what for whom in regards to fire protection within the city limits.
I agree it is a clouded issue that has for 25 years remained almost at a loss for the transparency of the light of day. Certainly no citizen is at fault for a lack of knowledge of who pays for what.
So with that idea in mind I wish to provide to the readers and the citizens of this city a short synoposis of who pays for what and perhaps as to why many are confused about that issue.
The city of 29 Palms has no line item in its budget for fire protection. Not a single penny of the taxes the city collects is used to support the 29 Palms Fire department.
The 29 Palms Fire Department is totally funded through a parcel assessment fee. We as citizens of 29 Palms agreed years ago to pay an $80.00 additional fee to our already assessed property taxes for fire protection.
That $80.00 is paid to the Water District which is the governing body that actually provides fire protection for the citizens of 29 Palms. Furthermore, the money that the Water District collects from our water bills can not by law be used for fire protection. And the money collected for fire protection, by law, can not be used for water services.
So, and lets make this very clear, the 29 Palms fire department, although named the 29 Palms Fire Department, is not funded by the city government of 29 Palms. In fact the citizens of Desert Heights pay that same $80.00 in order to get fire protection. In addition, the citizens of Desert Heights put themselves into a 20 year debt via bonds in order to build the Lear fire station, which is now paid off. That Lear station provides almost 55 percent of the fire services to the people that live in the city limits of 29 Palms.
Now most cities pay about 20 to 30 percent of their general tax levy for fire protection. That protection is either by contract or by having their own fire department. Combine that fire protection cost with the cost of police and almost 50 to 60 percent of the general tax levy is spent on fire and police protection. That premise holds true for every city in the county of San Bernardino except one – 29 Palms.
Because you and I as well as the residents of Desert Heights pay that $80.00 a year parcel tax the city of 29 Palms for the last 25 years has been able to keep that 20 to 30 percent that most cities pay for fire protection to do other things. They have been able to do the “nice to have things”. Such things as a very robust parks and recreation program. Such things as allocating money to non-profits. Such things as building signs for very specific beneficiaries.
That is the story in a rather large nutshell. I hope that I have debunked the myth that the city is paying for any of your fire protection services because they are not and they will not deny it.