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Templeton could soon vote to fund its fire department, county opted not to help 

The Templeton Community Services District board will decide at its May 21 meeting whether to hold a special election to fund its fire and emergency services department.

On May 7, the board held a workshop to inform the community about the lack of funding and resulting service lapses that the department is currently dealing with.

click to enlarge KEEPING IT LOCAL Templeton Fire and Emergency Services is proposing a parcel tax in order to fund its services and personnel. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • KEEPING IT LOCAL Templeton Fire and Emergency Services is proposing a parcel tax in order to fund its services and personnel.

A proposed parcel tax of $180 per year per parcel—adjusted annually for inflation and capped at 2 percent—could generate $486,000 each year for the department. The tax would allow the station to hire two new full-time firefighters, fill the full-time fire chief position, and create a three-shift platoon staffing configuration.

Bill White, the department's fire chief, said the community services district has one fire station that serves 8,000 residents. Currently, the district collects 8.4 cents to the dollar of property tax that is split between emergency service, district, and parks and recreation.

He said limited funding from the county and the small amount of money received from property taxes only allow the station to be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Night shifts are covered voluntarily by part-time firefighters when available. The community has experienced longer response times, and occasionally an emergency services crew is unable to respond to after-hours 911 calls.

According to a staff report, in 2018 there were 101 uncovered nights, and on those nights there were 103 calls for service with a delayed response time.

While there was support from residents and Templeton Chamber of Commerce CEO Jessica Main, resident Roy Arbini questioned whether the district was transparently sharing all of the community's options. Arbini suggested that if the department were to dissolve similarly to the Cayucos Fire Department, the county would take over and Cal Fire could provide fire services to the community.

White said that if Templeton's fire service were to be provided from Cal Fire County Fire Engine 30 located in Paso Robles, delayed response times would increase. The staff report states that in the last two years, Cal Fire couldn't respond to about 14 percent of Templeton's emergency calls because its crew was already committed to another incident.

He said giving the community an opportunity to vote on a parcel tax was the last resort, as he and the district have already requested help from the county. At the May 7 SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, the board received an update from the recently formed Ad Hoc Fire Committee that was tasked with finding out how to help the county's special fire districts.

"The ad hoc committee basically said, 'We're not going to help any special districts with their funding issue.' Even though they know we're only funded through property tax, so that door is basically shut to us right now," White said.

The special election could cost Templeton $40,000. White said he urges community members to reach out to him with any questions they have. Δ

Correction:  An earlier version of this story stated that if the proposed parcel tax were to go into effect residents would have to pay $100 per year per parcel, residents would have to pay $180 per year per parcel.  

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