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Fire Merger Study Presented
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Officials from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District on Monday, Oct. 14 moved forward on the possibility of a merger with the City of Oakdale Fire Department and the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District with the presentation of a study that looked into staffing, finances, and combining operations.

Cathy Dominico, a managing partner with Capitol Public Finance Group of Roseville, presented the $26,000 study commissioned by the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District that laid out deductions on the absorption of the two smaller departments.

According to the study, the expanded department could maintain the same level of service and increase its reserves that it could apply to capital projects.

To maintain revenue for the services, the properties within the Oakdale Rural district would have its previous property tax assessments replaced by the assessment charged currently by Stanislaus Consolidated to its jurisdiction. According to the study, applying the Stanislaus Consolidated assessment structure to Oakdale Rural parcels would result in revenue of $1.22 million the first year.

City of Oakdale properties would also have the assessment, with the city also agreeing to share tax revenue that had been designated for fire protection services. The study predicted $2.3 million in revenue as a result.

The study noted that overall, the property tax burden within the City of Oakdale is below the two-percent threshold most agencies strive to meet. It pointed out that imposing a new assessment on City of Oakdale residents would increase the tax burden and could result in a tax burden of over two percent in some areas of Oakdale.

“We just saw the numbers and realize this report is a first draft,” said Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer. “We’ll have to take this back for discussion.”

In September, the Oakdale City Council agreed to explore the merger as one department as a more efficient way of delivering fire protection and emergency medical services to residents.

The council also moved to lay off two firefighters at the end of the year due to budgetary concerns. The layoffs would be moot if the merger occurred.

No action was taken by Stanislaus Consolidated board members after the study was presented.

If annexation were to go through, a decision would have to be forwarded to the county assessor’s office by January 2014 to realign boundaries for property tax purposes.

The Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District was the outcome of a 1995 merger of local smaller departments and covers 217 square miles in the central and east Stanislaus County areas. The City of Oakdale department serves the 5.5 square mile area of the incorporated city and, under its multi-agency agreement with the 1945 established Oakdale Rural Fire Department, also covers over 250 square miles of the Oakdale Rural area including Valley Home and Knights Ferry.

The City of Oakdale and Oakdale Rural District already contract with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Department for management services and joint station staffing in the city.