Measure W will support first responders

The Sonoma State campus and downtown Cotati are in danger of not having a team of first responders at our fingertips if Measure W does not pass this midterm election season.
      Measure W will be on the ballot this November to prevent the shut down of the Rancho Adobe fire department. This department comprises the first responders that respond to any emergency calls from Sonoma State, Cotati, Penngrove and Liberty Valley. 

Responding to the fatal dorm room stabbing of last spring and every call made from downtown Cotati about an overly intoxicated college student and countless other events are among the things that the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District (RAFPD) does to keep the Sonoma State community safe.

     Without adequate funding, the station is in jeopardy of closing down, costing hundreds of firefighters their jobs resulting in no nearby first responders to protect our campus.

RAFPD has had to deal with multiple monetary issues within the past year. After the October wildfires, Sonoma County decreased property tax by $16 million, which decreased the department’s share of the property tax payments by $63,200. Another concern for the station is that the Graton Casino pays the county $2 million a year to compensate for the amount of public safety issues they may possess and for the added workload on public safety officers. That $2 million is divided among agencies within the county and RAFPD usually receives $300,000 of that fund, but the money that the Casino pays was only a part of a 5-year deal with the county and expires in 2019 with no promise of renewal.   

If Measure W does not pass this midterm election season, the Sonoma State campus, Penngrove, Cotati and Liberty Valley can expect response times to double meaning emergency medical calls could take twice as long to respond to, and a spike in the cost of homeowners insurance.

The Rancho Adobe fire department has set out on a campaign to approve Measure W, addressing important issues that they have faced since 1993. With response calls increasing 250 percent and still only receiving a parcel tax of $40 a year from each single family household in their district, RAFPD could see its stations shut down like that of the mortgage meltdown of 2007, according to their informational flyer.  

These are not the department’s only issues. Full-time firefighters working under RAFPD make, on average, 22 percent less than their fellow firefighters at other stations as well as only receiving a pension of two-percent a year compared to other stations whose workers make 3 percent. For the department’s 20 part-time workers, they are at even more of a disadvantage. Their part-time employees made only $11 an hour until March 2018 when it was increased to $15. To put this in perspective, a McDonald’s crew member on average makes $10 an hour and Jersey Mike’s team member makes between $15-$18 an hour. With these unfortunate circumstances, it has become increasingly difficult to attract more employees when other stations have better pay and benefits.

With their employees grossly underpaid, Measure W sets to right the wrongs that RAFPD employees have faced over the past 25 years. A “YES” on Measure W means that fire stations will remain open 24/7, necessary upkeep of equipment including fire engines, their part time employees will become full-time and all of this will be funded by replacing the $40 a year parcel tax with a $300 a year parcel tax. This would only cost homeowners 82 cents per day, with “a maximum 3 percent annual adjustment for inflation,” according to their informational flyer, with an annual audit to show how revenue is spent to remain honest. 

Sonoma State students do not pay a dime of the $300 a year parcel tax. These costs are only supported by local homeowners in their district. Although that may come off as unappealing, many other districts make up to $500 a year through either a special or parcel tax, one of those districts being Bodega Bay.  

This measure greatly benefits Sonoma State students and homeowners alike, to keep our district safe.  Make sure to vote “YES” on Measure W on
November 6.