Craig Jorgens - MOFD <Craig.Jorgens@gmail.com>
Steve Danziger - MOFD <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mike Roemer - MOFD <email@example.com>
Brandyn Iverson - Orinda Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Darlene Gee - Orinda Council <email@example.com>
Inga Miller - Orinda Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Janet Riley - Orinda Council <email@example.com>
Latika Malkani - Orinda Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For the 26th time since the voters of Orinda agreed to form MOFD in partnership with the residents of Moraga, the MOFD Board of directors will be setting the rates for the Orinda Fire Flow Tax and the Moraga Fire Flow Tax. For the first three years of the district’s life, the rates were appropriate. Orinda was paying about 40% more per firefighter than Moraga, but Orinda had to make up a $2 million equipment deficit. By year four, however, that deficit had been cured and from that point on, Orinda has been paying more than Moraga per firefighter, per household and per capita and that additional cost to Orinda’s property owners has been a subsidy to Moraga’s property owners for the service provided by MOFD. By 2002 that subsidy had increased to $1 million. By 2014, $2 million. By 2019 $3 million. And this year, 2023, $4 million. The reason for the increase is part inflation (total tax revenue today is 3.6 times what it was in 1998) and part that Orinda’s tax base has grown more than Moraga’s (3.85 times vs. 3.11 times) while service has remained constant.
Both communities agreed to form MOFD as an independent agency because they were tired of paying taxes that were then being used outside of Orinda and Moraga. The voters’ pamphlets and articles in the media were very clear on this. The Orinda’s voters pamphlet was crystal clear that Orinda’s taxes were not to be used elsewhere in the County (including Moraga) and Moraga, which already had a parcel tax, insisted that Orinda also create a parcel tax because it’s capital equipment was in a state of disrepair.
Everyone in Orinda and Moraga receives the same service. There are 9 firefighters in Orinda’s three stations serving Orinda’s 19,500 residents (2,160 residents per firefighter) and eight in Moraga’s two stations serving Moraga’s population of 17,000 (2,140 per firefighter). Operation records show that while there is “mutual aid” between the Orinda and Moraga stations, it flows equally in both directions. Effectively, the Orinda stations serve Orinda and the Moraga stations serve Moraga, as they did before the merger.
So why are Orinda households now paying $2,900 each in property taxes each while Moraga households are only paying $2,000 for equivalent service which MOFD spends $2,500 tax dollars per household to provide? Because no one ever kept track of what the voters were promised nor balanced sources with uses.
What can be done? Part of the problem can be solved by charging Moragans closer to what it costs to serve them by increasing their parcel tax rate from 6 cents to 30 cents. Then MOFD can provide Orinda with additional service, namely wildfire prevention, with the Orinda tax dollars no longer going to subsidize Moraga’s service.
Language was never put into the MOFD formation documents requiring that Orinda tax dollars be spent in Orinda, as promised. It was thought that locally elected board members would serve their respective community’s best interests. It is time you did so.
And it is also time that the Orinda City Council stand up to protect Orinda’s safety and use Orinda’s substantial tax dollars for service to Orinda as your predecessors promised the residents that they would be. I understand that the Council has no legal control over MOFD (possibly a mistake by your predecessors), but you have the bully pulpit. If you tell our MOFD representatives, and the residents of Orinda, that MOFD has to use our tax dollars as intended, they will be. But you have to stand up and say it. No one is going to say it for you. You can’t say that you can’t do anything because the MOFD Board is not doing anything. You ran for election to serve Orinda’s best interests. Using four million tax dollars a year for service to Orinda, especially wildfire prevention services, instead of subsidizing Moraga’s service, is in Orinda’s best interests. You need to make that happen.
The MOFD Board is voting on next year’s parcel tax rates this Wednesday evening. It is time they make Moraga pay its fair share and for Orinda’s tax dollars to be used for service (wildfire prevention) in Orinda.
Do the right thing and represent your constituents’ best interests.