Monday, March 10, 2014

Editor's note - re: consolidation

A recent flurry throughout the county offices, in response to the negative fiscal climate, has been to "consolidate" everything from CSA's to CSD's, Fire Departments, and more.

While, on paper, this may be a reasonable request, in reality it has far reaching, potentially negative, implications.

It is first important to understand the massive amount of square miles within our county lines, approximately 1,025 square miles. Take a minute for that to soak in.

According to the Calaveras County website, there are four CSA's (County Service Areas) that oversee roads within more remote locations, Diamond XX, Rancho Calaveras, etc. Would consolidation of these areas that are hundreds of square miles apart or geographically inaccessible to another be beneficial? Would service to these areas be appropriate?

There are ten fire districts in the county. While looking at that number one would think consolidation is possible, well perhaps, but for some, consolidation is geographically inconceivable.

Due to the recent economy fire districts have been operating on shoestring budgets, those that had the foresight to create a reserve fund or the citizens passed a tax ensuring their public safety, are financially solvent yet still feeling the financial crunch. Expanding their response borders utilizing the existing funding for the departments to be absorbed would simply put a financial strain on their already existing budget. Not to mention, tax payers within areas like Ebbetts Pass and Copperopolis have voted to pay for Paramedic response and extra personnel, would these personnel then be required to serve another community on the pre-existing communities tax dollars? Consolidation alos brings into question the ambulance service provided by Ebbetts Pass to their community through their tax dollars being possibly utilized outside their boundaries with the onset of consolidation.

Then there's the talk of consolidating the schools. Will it have an effect on the Federal Rural Education Achievement Program? Will measure funds be diverted from the school they were raised for? Will property owned by current districts become property of new consolidated districts? Will it, in reality, save the same amount of money as seen on paper? Will it benefit the students? The teaching staff?

There are certainly pros and cons to each side of consolidation, hopefully those in charge will tread lightly and weigh all the options.

I plan to follow the county on this line of thinking and keep you updated.

Charity Maness