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Arroyo Grande questions Oceano's funding for the Five Cities Fire Authority

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Arroyo Grande City Council voted 4-1 on May 29 to approve the Five Cities Fire Authority (FCFA) memorandum of agreement, with a lot of hesitation about its partner Oceano.

The memorandum spells out how the three communities—Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Oceano—will continue to move forward in amending the current joint powers agreement to fund the fire authority.

According to the agreement for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Arroyo Grande will contribute $2.5 million, Grover Beach will pay nearly $1.8 million, and Oceano will put forth $987,362. The three entities have until April 1, 2019, to agree on efforts to amend the joint powers agreement. Without unanimous agreement, it will be terminated on Dec. 31 of that year.

At its May 23 district board meeting, the Oceano Community Services District recognized that projected revenues for the 2018-19 fiscal year would be insufficient to cover its portion of the FCFA operating expenditures. The district is considering a revenue measure to increase available funding.

Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill and Councilmember Tim Brown brought up Oceano's insufficient funds during the May 29 City Council meeting.

"If past experiences are any predictor, I think we're just spinning our wheels if we think Oceano is going to be able to do something that we couldn't pull off," Brown said. "No disrespect to Oceano, it's just the harsh reality that people don't like tax increases."

With trepidation on Brown's end, he along with Councilmembers Kristen Barneich, Barbara Harmon, and Mayor Pro Tem Caren Ray approved the memorandum with Hill dissenting.

Brown's comments didn't sit well with Oceano Community Services District Board President Karen White. She told New Times that the district is short of funding, but it also knows that having the FCFA is economical and the best option for the community, so it's looking into all funding aspects.

"His implication that we couldn't pass the bond issue, the tax increase, I was very disappointed. I wish he wouldn't speak for Oceano," White said. "We will hold up our end of the bargain."

Oceano drafted the memorandum that was approved by the FCFA. The Oceano Community Services District approved it at its May 23 meeting. The memorandum is awaiting approval from the Grover Beach City Council. Δ

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