Saturday, January 06, 2018

Good Shape

Fire station on a rainy evening

The Fire Department, as are most of Foster City's line operations, is in good financial shape. The Fire budget is $10 million out of the City's total $100 million per year.

Years ago there was a ballot measure to transfer the Fire Department's assets, personnel, and future tax revenues to San Mateo, which would manage the firefighting service. Proponents dressed up the measure with a few sweeteners, but it was voted down heavily after they couldn't guarantee our station would not be closed.

Long-time Foster City residents remembered all the promises that were made by the County and the teachers' union to take care of our students if we didn't build our own high school and set up an independent school district. We yielded to their blandishments, and the land set aside for the high school was built over. Now all our high schoolers are bused every day to and fro across heavily trafficked Highway 101 to six different high schools. (Foster City's own elementary and middle schools consistently rank in the top quartile of the State; not so San Mateo's high schools.)

The high school experience showed that San Mateo could not be trusted with Foster City's fire service, especially since an earthquake could knock out the bridges and we would be on our own. (Foster City was built on Brewer's Island and is connected to the Peninsula by four bridges.)

Nevertheless, they still keep trying. A Joint Powers Agreement under which several cities, including ours, cede some authority and assets was signed two months ago. Yes, cost-sharing makes sense for functions such as fire inspection and education. However, because Foster City runs budget surpluses while neighboring cities are in deficit, the agreement bears watching.

We're in good shape, as long as we keep our distance.

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