Ventura County Fire Department officials will face Port Hueneme residents at City Hall tonight to explain a proposed tax on fire services that could cost property owners an average of $110 annually.
The tax is necessary to bolster a $50-million Fire Department budget that could be cut by up to 43% under Gov. Pete Wilson's funding plan.
Without the tax, Fire Chief George Lund has said, the department would have to close nine of its 31 stations and lay off up to 200 of its 462 employees, including some of the 330 firefighters.
County fire district residents have already hit the county clerk's office with a barrage of angry protest letters. If formal complaints by property owners represent at least 5% of the total revenues the county would collect from the tax, the proposal would go to a special election in June, 1994.
Employees in the clerk's office say they hope to finish tabulating thousands of protests by the end of the week to determine if there are enough complaints to force an election.
The fire officials' presentation at 7 p.m. at Port Hueneme City Hall is the second of seven presentations planned around the county. It comes less than a week after Wilson called for reinstituting a half-cent sales tax, due to expire June 30, to bail out local governments shortchanged by his proposed budget.
The Fire Department's first presentation, last week in Simi Valley, was greeted with disdain by many of the 100 people who attended. However, by the time the presentation was over, several residents had asked the fire officials for the names and addresses of Ventura County legislators so they could send protests straight to Sacramento.