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What one year without a city fire department has meant for San Bernardino

By in Press Enterprise on July 21, 2017

By Ryan Hagen

Since San Bernardino County firefighters took over the city of San Bernardino’s fire and emergency service one year ago, the average time for firefighters to respond to a 911 call has fallen dramatically, dropping more than 3 minutes from 9:50 to 6:07.

That 38 percent improvement compared with 2014, the last year with data available, contradicts some critics’ prediction that service levels would worsen under county management and fulfills one of the main promises of the controversial annexation, which took effect the first week of July 2016.

But other effects are more ambiguous, even now that a full year of data is available.

“That response time is critical — it can save lives,” said Assistant Chief Dan Munsey, who has overseen fire services for the city since February. “At the same time, I think there’s been some significant challenges. We’ve developed short- and long-range plans for that.”

The change to county services in San Bernardino, and more recently in Upland, is opposite with trends in Riverside County, where some cities are considering breaking away from county services and considering forming local or regional agencies.

FINANCIAL IMPACT COMPLICATED
When San Bernardino’s consultant, Andy Belknap of Management Partners, presented the plan in August 2015, he projected “an $11 million contribution to solvency.”

That was downgraded to about $7 million by the time of the vote, and now city officials say it’s difficult to put a single number on how the outsourcing has affected the city’s bottom line, given the combination of lost revenues and savings. Reconciliation with the county is ongoing, according to city officials.

The annexation added a new tax on each parcel of land in the city, which was $148 per year for fiscal year 2016-17 and can increase up to 3 percent per year.

And all of that money goes directly to the county every year, no matter […]    

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