The Ripon City Council showed its support for the Ripon Consolidated Fire District by passing a resolution calling for a 1 percent sales tax on Tuesday.
Whether that goes any further than the resolution itself remains to be seen.
"Even if this tax measure is successful, no revenue can go to the fire district," said City Attorney Thomas Terpstra, who received information by a state attorney privy to funding for special districts. "It is the law."
Voters in the City of Lathrop, however, eight years ago passed a one cent general sales tax that city leaders at the time agreed as part of the campaign to garner support to send a set percentage of revenues raised to the Lathrop Manteca Fire District for fire services within the city limits.
Lathrop, like Ripon, does not have its own fire department but relies on a fire district that includes rural areas. During the current budget cycle the $6.6 million in extra sales tax the measure generated provided $3.9 million for city services and $2.6 million to the Lathrop Manteca Fire District.
That city secured a ruling it was legal to split the sales tax as long as it pays for fire services within the city limits and was understood the council resolution making it possible was non-binding. That means a majority of a future council could opt to send the fire district less, more, or no money at all. The city allows the district to pay for firefighters and equipment tied directly to serving Lathrop’s 24,000 residents.
By supporting the resolution, the City of Ripon’s elected leaders believe their supporting vote could serve as a springboard into looking at other funding options such as Proposition 218.
"Adopting this resolution shows it's not the end but the beginning," Councilman Leo Zuber said.
Vice Mayor Daniel de Graaf is no stranger to Prop. 218, which would also require voter approval prior to imposition or increase of general taxes or assessments.
"I do 218s regularly," he said, adding that 80 percent of the work, in order to be successful, requires supporters to be transparent in getting the information out to the public.
Sheri Coburn, who is the SOS chairperson seeking funds for the RCFD,
Ripon voters twice in recent years voted against parcel tax to help support the local fire district. "We know a third time will not be a charm," she said.
While other cities -- Coburn used Parlier in Fresno County and Oakdale as examples of successfully receiving funding via sales tax -- city officials noted that circumstances at those places were different from that of Ripon.
Council members were further helped out by their supporting vote with a part of the resolution that stated: "notwithstanding the legal flaws in the proposed tax measure, the City Council understand that additional revenues for the fire district are important and can be achieved by other means, including the adoption by (RCFD) of a special assessment on property within the district, following the procedures required by Proposition 218."
In addition, Councilman Mike Restuccia is hoping for a joint meeting with RCFD on exploring other ways to help out.