Speaking About Big Bear Fire Authority


City of Big Bear Lake Councilman Dave Caretto   CARETTO Dave 2019.jpg



I have been asked to expand upon my comments that I made at the Fire Authority Board meeting, Wednesday,  April 17, 2019, regarding the current distribution of revenue between the Big Bear Fire Protection District (Big Bear Lake) and the Big Bear Community Services District (Big Bear City CSD). 

Here is the information from the proposed Fire Authority Budget for 2019-2020:

CSD Property tax revenue              7.5%                            $2,058,800     

CSD Fire Parcel tax                          $130+                         $2,421,800   

                                                        Total CSD                         $4,480,600

Fire Protection District Property Tax Revenue              15%                             $5,506,100

                                                           Total FPD                                                          $5,506,100   


As you can see from the above numbers, despite the fact that the Fire Protection District includes less than half of the number of residents and a much smaller geographic area and many fewer parcels, the Fire Protection District produces significantly more revenue currently than the CSD service area.  This is because of several factors.  15% of the ad valorem property tax in the FPD is directed specifically to the FPD, while in the CSD only 7.5% of the property tax goes currently to the Fire Authority.  This is because when Proposition 13 came into effect many years ago, the CSD ended up receiving less property tax revenue than the already established FPD.  Therefore, the CSD has had to implement a parcel tax specifically for the Fire Department which currently is something over $130 per parcel.  One other factor is that the property valuations in the City of Big Bear Lake are much higher than in the CSD service area.  This is due to the many hotels, restaurants, lodges, commercial structures and larger homes on the lake which all pay larger property tax payments than the largely residential nature of the CSD area.

So, to say that the FPD is somehow not contributing equally or enough, as one speaker indicated last night, is just incorrect and misleading.  I have made an attempt to correct this misinformation each time it is said.  It is true that the commercial structures require more fire personnel to fight a fire.  However,  the main focus of the fire department at this time is EMS service (over 95%) of calls which are distributed between the CSD, FPD and visitors. 

Now, under the Community Facilities District proposal now under consideration, all developed residential parcels will pay a fire service tax (anywhere from $60 to $150 per year—the amount still to be determined).  In this scenario, because the CSD has so many more parcels, the income from the new tax, if approved, will favor the CSD area over the FPD. However, the proposal also includes new fire service taxes on commercial properties, private home rentals and the mountain resorts, in addition to a likely increase in the City TOT for the benefit of the fire department.  As most of the commercial properties, the mountain resorts, hotels, lodges and private home rentals, etc. are in the City of Big Bear Lake (the FPD), a large portion of the new anticipated revenue will come from inside the City limits of Big Bear Lake.

Unfortunately, our consultants have done polling twice now on the parcel tax proposals, and the results are not very encouraging.  Folks in this very conservative, tax averse community seem to want continuing and even improved fire services, but results seem to indicate that they are not really very willing to pay more for these services.  Only 53% of those polled appear willing to pay the $150 fee while only 62% are willing to pay $60.  Both are far short of the 66 2/3% needed to pass a tax measure.  It is my hope that when people realize that the Fire Authority Board is suggesting that a large portion of the new revenue come from the resorts, commercial businesses, lodges and private home rentals (visitor related services), that the percentages will increase significantly so that a tax measure will be successful.  We will have to make a very significant effort to educate the voters, so that in March 2020, they will be willing and able to support the fire department appropriately.

Also, it bears repeating again, that if a CFD tax proposal is unsuccessful, one alternative is to annex to the County Fire Protection District for fire service.  Not only do we lose local control in that instance, but a $157 parcel tax is immediately implemented without any vote of residents. 

Also, there is no guarantee that the services provided will be improved under the County.  In fact, a reduction of services or station closing is a real possibility (not that the County would tell us that before annexation). 


APRIL 2019   

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