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Oceano voters to decide on property tax to fund fire services

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Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 17, 2022

Oceano residents could soon be paying a bit more on their property taxes.

That’s because a fire tax is back on the ballot for the June primary election.

Property owners in Oceano will be able to decide once again whether they’ll be taxed an additional $15 a month to maintain fire services.

It’s called Measure A-22.

It may ring a bell because it was on the ballot back in March of 2020 as Measure A-20.

But it did not pass after being just nine votes shy of a 2/3rds majority after a recount.

During a recent meeting, however, the Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors decided it’ll go back on the ballot.

“I voted to put it on the ballot. And why? It's real easy - 66% of the voters in Oceano wanted it,” said Karen White, Oceano CSD Board of Directors President.

It’s a flat tax of $180 per year that will fund 24/7 fire service in Oceano with three Five Cities Fire Authority firefighters.

“I want again that ambulance to come for me,” White said. “They've already come and picked me up once. A broken hip, hello, and I want them to be able to do that.”

Since the measure didn’t pass in 2020, the general manager of the Oceano CSD, Will Clemens, says the fire department hasn’t been able to hire the necessary number of firefighters to fully staff the Oceano station.

“So right now, they can only cover roughly 2/3rds of the shifts so that means the Oceano station is closed about 1/3rd of the time,” Clemens explained.

Those in favor of the tax recognize the majority of emergency calls in Oceano are medical aids.

“And if we take that away, the support will not be there for the older people unless they have to wait for Arroyo Grande or the other parts of the Five Cities area,” said Mary Waggoner of Oceano.

Residents against it argue they don’t want to add another tax.

But some are still on the fence on how they may vote.

“If we are going to have a tax, I think it should be a fair tax and I think it should be a progressive tax which means that if you own, have less square footage on your property, then you pay less for fire services,” said Charles Varni, Oceano Advisory Council Vice-Chair.

If passed, in the first year, the measure could generate $410,000, according to Clemens. The tax would increase no more than 2% per year thereafter. It would not have a sunset date.

The San Luis Obispo County Elections Office will begin mailing ballots by May 9. The primary election is on June 7.