By Kathy Lee Scott/Garden Grove Journal
It’s going to cost Garden Grove residents more for the paramedics to rescue them after Tuesday’s city council meeting. In a 3-1 vote, the city council approved a tax override increase to 6 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
Councilmember Andrew Do was absent and Councilmember Dina Nguyen voted against the motion.
“This was a hard decision for me,” she said. “I want that $100 or so to stay in residents’ pockets so they can spend it in Garden Grove. I don’t want them to give the city that $100.”
Taking effect in July, the new rate should raise $6 million a year for the fire department’s paramedic program.
According to Fire Chief Dave Bertka, the current rate of 2.5 cents per $100 of value generates $2.5 million. But it costs around $6.7 million for all the paramedic equipment, units and staff, who responded to an average of 5,750 calls annually during the last five years.
Right now, nine paramedic firefighters work each of three daily shifts with 20 regular firefighters. The department employs 27 paramedic firefighters total, Bertka said.
Between 1975 and 1984, the city taxed properties 10 cents for each $100 of assessed value. In 1985, the tax went down to 2.5 cents. “Taxpayers learned we collected more than we spent,” the fire chief said.
However, costs increased but the revenue stream didn’t. So the city’s general fund subsidized the program by about $4.2 million a year.
“Too many people become dependent on the general fund for services,” said Mayor William Dalton. “This program needs to be self-sustaining.”
In 1987, the demand for more paramedic services, plus a mandate that required response within five minutes, necessitated the fire department begin screening 9-1-1 calls to dispatch the paramedic units to people needing them. Additionally, three fire trucks were converted into paramedic assessment units. “None of these leave the city,” said Bertka. “The fire trucks will follow an ambulance to pick up the paramedic and return him to service.”
Since the new tax rate will only generate $6 million, the city will cover the remaining $700,000, the fire chief added.
Earlier during the meeting, residents from Travel Country RV Park on Harbor Boulevard packed the council chamber to protest the redevelopment agency’s agreement to demolish the RV park and relocate the residents to Grove Park apartments. The city intends to build a water park hotel at that location.
A Legal Aid attorney asked the council members, acting as agency members, to delay voting on the replacement housing plan. But the members agreed unanimously to accept it.
“Garden Grove has a history of taking care of people when we vacate property,” said Agency Chair Bruce Broadwater. “We won’t put anyone out on the street.”