Oceano residents will likely get to vote on $180 fire tax

Cynthia Replogle, Linda Austin, Shirley Gibson, Karen White and Allene Villa


Five years ago, Oceano residents said no to an annual fire tax, and in 2020 they will have another opportunity to approve or reject a new plan to levy a $180 annual tax on every home.

The Oceano Community Services District has been served by the Five Cities Fire Authority through a joint powers agreement with the cities of Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach since 2010.

Throughout the Five Cities Fire Authority’s existence, it has experienced financial challenges. The authority was created through a joint powers agreement between Oceano and the cities of Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach.

In 2014, the combined communities attempted a parcel tax that would have generated $1.1 million a year.  It was rejected by 60 percent of property owners.

Over the last few years, the authority has identified and implemented a five-year strategic plan that significantly increased operating expenses to fund full-time personnel and vehicle and equipment purchases. While Oceano and Arroyo Grande have struggled to contribute to the new strategic plan, Grover Beach has increased revenue to its city by allowing cannabis businesses.

Over the same time period, Arroyo Grande implemented significant cost cutting measures and lay-offs. Arroyo Grande is asking voters to approve an increase in sales tax in March 2020 which could help the city to pay its share of the fire authority and to cover other citywide shortfalls.

The Oceano Community Service District Board is expected to vote on Oct. 23 to place a fire tax on the March 3, 2020 ballot. The board is hoping to raise $420,000 to $460,000 annually in order to remain a partner in the fire authority.

If rejected, it is likely Oceano will leave the fire authority and San Luis Obispo County will take over fire services.

Oceano recently spent $27,900 to conduct a survey of its registered voters on the fire tax. The survey came back with just 157 respondents, of those only 16.3 percent would definitely support the $180 tax with another 32.8 percent who would probably support the measure.

Oceano requires a 66.6 percent voter approval to pass the sales tax.