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MOFD Chief Bradley's Response to Citizen "Task Force" Report

A local group's sharply critical report of management practices at the Moraga-Orinda Fire District is countered by MOFD's top firefighter.

Statement by Moraga-Orinda Fire District Chief Randall Bradley in response to a local group's recent, critical analysis of district management. The "Orinda Emergency Services Task Force" was driven, in part, by local resident Steve Cohn.

From Chief Bradley:

I have been directed by the MOFD Board to conduct an analysis of Steve Cohn’s 90 page report and develop and executive summary of my findings.  I plan to provide the Board with my summary within 30 to 45 days.  I will be working with our auditors, actuaries and standards of cover consultants to ensure I provide a balanced and objective review.  With that said, based on a cursory review of the report the following is my initial reaction and thoughts. 

The group that published this report is basically the same group (Mr. Cohn) that predicted two and a half years ago that the District would have an extra $60 million dollars to pay for Orinda roads.  He also proposed that the District should contract with the Contra Costa County Fire District (they will shut down six stations if their parcel tax fails) and utilize a private ambulance company for ambulance services.  Now he is asserting that we are bankrupt and $700 million in debt.  In the past (we have read Mr. Cohn’s $700 million debt assertion before), our professional actuaries did not agree with Mr. Cohn’s numbers. 

I believe these communities value their schools, open space and quality fire and EMS services (public safety), then roads and infrastructure, in that order. I believe the intent of the report was to try to influence that value system by discrediting the Fire District and placing the improvement of roads and infrastructure above quality fire protection and EMS.  I have heard Mr. Cohn say that he does not care if his home burns down….I do not believe these communities agree with that value system.  I believe the District has a mandate to protect these communities and provide urban service levels in an area with semi-rural housing densities.  The citizens want their open space and a fire engine within six minutes 90 percent of the time with well-trained firefighter paramedics on the fire engines and ambulances.   We accomplish this by strategically locating five fire engines and two ambulances throughout our District.   It is an expensive proposition but we have been able to meet that expectation with no service level reduction throughout the largest recession since the great depression.  It should also be noted that in Orinda we a have one of the worst wildland urban interface fire problems in the country.  

Our Firefighters have not received pay raises in four years or health care increases for almost three years (labor costs are 90% of our budget).  In that same time we have reduced overhead costs dramatically by eliminating a Fire Marshal, secretary, full time nurse, communications specialist and reserve firefighter coordinator.  We have also reduced costs by renegotiating service contracts, changing how we administer our employee benefits, and renegotiating chief officer employment contracts. 

Mr. Cohn continues to argue there is an inequity between Orinda and Moraga

  • We are one District and Orinda benefits by the economies-of-scale that are created by one District. 
  • After the completion of the Fire House in Orinda the District will have spent approximately $8-9 of the $12 million expenditures in fire flow tax dollars in Orinda (Moraga Pays the same amount of Fire Flow taxes as Orinda).
  • If you include the approximate 700 Orinda homes that are served by Moraga Fire Stations the revenues are very close to being equal.
  • Everyone pays 1 percent of assessed property values in property taxes…post proposition 13…true property tax equity is elusive.   Your next door neighbor probably pays different property taxes based upon when he/or she purchased their home. 

Like most public agencies the District has accrued unfunded liabilities due to our pension system’s (the District inherited this pension system when it was formed) failure to achieve expected return on investments and the 2002/2008 stock market losses. None of our current Board members voted for our current pension formula (3% @ 50) that has contributed to the unfunded liabilities.  We have also accrued unfunded liabilities due to retiree healthcare, a program we also inherited with unfunded liabilities when the District was formed. 

We have been working for over two years on a sustainable labor agreement and for over a year on a plan that we believe will address our unfunded liabilities over the next 13-15 years without a reduction is service levels.  After the reported is completed I will present the report to our Board for public review, comment and hopefully adoption.  The District understands that we must develop a system that is sustainable and that we need to address our pension system (Pension reform will help) and our other retiree medical benefit liabilities.  The Board is committed to developing a sustainable fire protection and EMS program that the public deserves and expects.

Joe Nobody September 24, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Apparently no matter what facts are presented you will twist and turn them into a negative. So the tax free disability I am receiving will make up permanent nerve damage to my arm, and not enough to support my family. I appreciate your kind words with the "cry-o-meter" it's nice to know how support the people that are serving you. I hate to see what you think of the others that have given there life and health protecting others. Apparently you have some strong issues surrounding public safety personnel. Nothing was omitted, it's all public information. You missed the entire point of what I was saying. But I imagine no matter what I say you will turn it into an agenda. I have no agenda other than to speak the facts and from the heart. I hope you never experience the punch in the gut when somme tells you that you can no longer do what you love to do, and have spent your entire adult life working to improve. It is a nightmare that I wish upon no one. Unless you walk a mile in someone's shoes don't pretend to know their experiences. I hope you feel better about yourself now that you got that off your chest. I was not looking for your sympathy, just bringing it to reality. I was not making this a personal attack on anyone. I hope your energy is redirected to something positive now. We all make choices in life, mine was to try to make a difference for some and I can truly say I did, they are still around today and may be your neighbor. So I will take the bad and make it good.
Glen Fuller September 24, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Nobody has refuted chief bradleys comments about Orinda citezins who were covered by Moraga fire originally. Here in the ivy drive neighborhood, we were Orinda residents, had 376 prefixes, and were served by Moraga fire and paid Moraga fire taxes... I have read the arguments about Moraga vs. Orinda tax inequities closely but haven't seen the numbers adjusted for this fact. Please point me in the correct direction.
Valerie Sloven September 24, 2012 at 06:23 AM
@Andrew: Do you seriously think your volunteer work compares in any way to what fireman and police officers do every day. Remember 9/11 when those brave men and women rushed into those burning buildings without a thought for their own safety. How soon we forget. And can someone please tell me what the private sector is paying firemen and police officer these days?
Anita Harness September 24, 2012 at 09:17 AM
You certainly have a flair for the dramatics.
Anita Harness September 24, 2012 at 09:19 AM
Andrew - Why are you so upset? He's just using the cry-o-meter that you built.
Janet Maiorana September 24, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Glen Fuller, Before MOFD, there were 700 homes in south Orinda served by the Moraga Fire District. However that situation no longer exists so we should work on the fire district we have today - MOFD . The Orinda Task Force report explains AUTO or MUTUAL AID which goes on throughout the county including MOFD. Section V - Pages 3 to 9 of the Task Force report will point you in the correct direction. Hope this helps. www/OrindaTaskForce.org
Janet Maiorana September 24, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Glen, Sorry for typo. www.OrindaTaskForce.org
Tom September 24, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I see many people over the years claim that due to the danger of the job police and fire people have to deal with they are somehow different that the rest of the work force and we must blindly pay them. The link below blows this concept away as CNN is hardly anti union anti fire or police. http://money.cnn.com/gallery/pf/2012/09/20/most-dangerous-jobs/index.html Bottom line for me is of course these people provide a valuable service but we must convert all public employees to 401K private sector type plans, eliminate sick pay and pay a fair wage for this valuable service provided. The spreadsheet will soon handle this as the union elected politicians will not. I use to think our police and fire people were our heros but from a state fiscal standpoint I no longer think that. They are destroyers and a big part of the problem. When ever I see an endoresement from their union for a candidate I see this as a negative.
Anita Harness September 24, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Histrionic often?
SympatheticCitizen September 24, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Negativity, unapreciativeness, disalusioned self entitlement, immaturity and total lack of any civility in debate. All of these traits have been demonstrated by the haters chiming in here against First Responders in general and MOFD FireFighters in specific. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Every single FF in MOFD has been reading your villanous diatribes and selfish postulating quietly, patiently amd with the utmost professionalism. Does it anger them and make them feel disrespected, unappreciated and frustrated? Sure. Will they continue to provide some of the highest quality Fire/EMS services around? Absolutely, because they are are professional, mature, humble, honorable people who truly want to make a difference and make your worst day ever a little better. A little less devastating. They deserve respect. Oh yeah, please also try to remember that Wall Street caused this, not FF's and Police Officers. So, in the spirit of reconciliation, just try to find in the chasms of your negativity and contempt some civility. Please Speak respectfully, and act like a grown up.
Eastofthehills September 24, 2012 at 06:50 PM
BEFORE MOFD was formed the 700 orinda homes in south orinda were part of MFD and if added to Moraga households make up ~11.9% of the total. So in order to make your comparision in Section V more realistic when you dice up the numbers based on your ratios you need to add 1 firefighter the Orinda ratio and subtract one from Moraga's if you want a true comparison on Orinda/Moraga service or you need to credit money from revenue of the 700 orinda homes to Moraga and subtract it from Orinda. 12:7 ratio; tax per FF = Orinda/925K Moraga/900K FF per 1K HH Orinda/1.82 Moraga 1.20 Ditching MOFD won't do Orinda or Moraga one nit of good. If anything it will increase adminstrative expense (2X chief bradley's each probably making atleast 3/4 what our current chief makes! not including benefits. 2X the admin personnel and etc.) Steve has some legit beef with the MOFD, but the FAIR solution of hand grenading the district will only make it worse not better.
Chris Nicholson September 24, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Pot, meet kettle. A modest framework: 1. As a taxpayer, I deserve to get the most out of my tax dollars. 2. Public employees should be paid market rates. In other words, enough to attract qualified people to fill the slots that we deem necessary to deliver the services levels (quality and quantity) we choose to pay for. No more, no less. 3. When hundreds of seemingly qualified people apply for vacancies (and then sue up to the Sup. Ct. when they feel they weren't given a fair shot at a position), this suggests that above-market compensation may be being offered and the taxpayers' money can be stretched further. 4. I don't blame first responders for their current comp packages or for wanting to preserve them. In their position, I would do the same. I think they just might want to reflect on my first three points. I am sorry if this offends anyone.
Mike D. September 24, 2012 at 07:39 PM
To all the MOFD FF reading this: the "negativity" is not directed at you or the very important role you play in our communities. The wrath of taxpayers you are hearing is a complete frustration with your union money and bosses influencing politicians who want to fill thier campaign coffers, those same politicians who voted for pension laws that are unsustainable, with union contracts negotiated with unrealistic assumptions and with collective bargaining laws that destroyed any fairness between taxpayers and public employees. It is not an attack on you personally, rather a response to a completely broken system that we will be picking up the tab for. I genuinely thank you for your service.
Janet Maiorana September 24, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Eastofthehills, Since I am not a member of Fair, am not sure of their positions. My position since 2002 has been for Orinda to detach and form an Orinda Fire District based on Orinda's boundaries. Our Orinda Fire Chief, would also be the Fire Marshal, and would not receive the benefits you mention which apply to MOFD. The list of fiscal benefits are too numerous to mention here. Orinda would be over $18 million ahead which would have maintained our roads. We would not be faced with a monumental infrastructure problem. If you believe in economy of scale, do you advocate Orinda and Moraga join Con Fire? The old Moraga Fire District has not existed since 1997 so your calculations based on the pre 1997 Moraga Fire District are not applicable. We must base our calculations based on what is from 1997 to today. It is sad MOFD or the city councils involved has been unwilling to appoint a citizen committee to oversee our emergency operations.
Ian Lipnicky (still a SportsFan) September 24, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Privatize fire protection services.
Janet Maiorana September 24, 2012 at 08:01 PM
The last sentence of the Orinda Emergency Services Task Force states, "We are not going to just spend ourselves out of this mess. We need to start acting smart. What will it take to effect a study of our emergency services?
Eastofthehills September 24, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Janet to quote your report: "Orinda's 11-firefighter force merged with Moraga's 8-firefighter force therefore the costs of the combined force should be shared in this ratio of personnel providing service to each community, 11:8 (57.9% to Orinda), unless substantial reasons exist to allocate differently. The Task Force examined the various rationales put forward to share costs in a different ratio (area served, mutual aid, assessed property value, capital expenditure needs) and found that none provided significant reason to deviate from the basic 11:8 cost sharing ratio." If my "Pre-MOFD" numbers are irrelevant so are yours. So you're saying that the ratios you and the comittee established in section V are not applicable today? I don't propose a merger with Confire because the interests Confire wouldn't be inline with Orinda or Moraga. I think that if you use the "actual" Orinda/Moraga ratio as I've stated in my above post you'd probably find that your $18M shrinks down to nothing; unless you are proposing that the 700 south orinda homes in the former MFD would be paying for MFD coverage and additionally for an OFD whose district they were not in?
Miles VanBuren September 24, 2012 at 08:24 PM
@Chief Bradley, Appreciate your willingness to engage in meaningful discussions and high praise for knowing when to conclude your comments.
Steve Cohn September 24, 2012 at 10:48 PM
As a founding member of FAIR and a member of the Orinda Task Force I emphatically concur with Mike D. Both groups have nothing but the highest respect for the MOFD firefighters. We don't even have much of a problem with their union reps. They asked for the moon and our elected officials gave it to them. If you read the Task Force report you will see that nowhere in that report do we claim that they are anything but professional, well trained emergency responders. Nowhere do we suggest that promises made in the past be negated by claiming bankruptcy or some other heavy handed maneuver. We do note that they do not respond to emergencies within the 6 minute target which the District and the industry proscribe 39% of the time but that is not due to any slackness on their part but due to the fact that the 11 emergency responders in Orinda are concentrated in three stations. At this point we may point to the emergency responders a bit in that they know that 99% of the emergencies they go to do not require 3 firefighters with 2-3 firefighters as backup. There must be a better way to allocate resources. As for paying them too much, the Task Force report shows that the average fire fighter costs $235,000 in salary and benefits and if the unfunded employee benefit liabilities are to be funded in the next 20 years that could increase to $300,000. I do not believe the average fire fighter has any idea that is what he costs so he can be excused for push-back.
Steve Cohn September 24, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Clarification EastoftheHills: Janet is not part of the Task Force, her husband Vince is. That being said, Janet and Vince have long advocated for Orinda to detach from MOFD as they have spent years trying to get MOFD to adhere to the spirit of of the formation with each community paying its fair share. This has been to no avail so they have concluded that the only way Orinda will pay its fair share is to go back to independent service. This is their personal opinion. Unfortunately MOFD has created $700 million "poison pill" in the form of future employee benefit liabilities. It is my personal opinion (this is not a Task Force position) that the Orinda City Council will never obligate its revenue stream to its fair share of this obligation nor that LAFCO would allow two special districts to form in place of MOFD so that the liabilities could remain segregated. Therefore, an independent Orinda Fire District is no longer a possibility. But getting back to your "700 homes are served by Moraga-based units"; this is a myth. Maybe it was true in 1996 before MOFD was formed but it is no longer. That is what the facts in the Task Force report show. Significant responses to those homes come from Moraga but significant responses also come from Orinda. Moraga units provide service farther into Orinda but Orinda units also provide service to Moraga. The fact that 700 homes were part of the Moraga Fire District prior to the formation of MOFD is now irrelevant.
Steve Cohn September 24, 2012 at 11:08 PM
That will not make the $700 million in accrued liabilities go away.
Carol Penskar September 24, 2012 at 11:16 PM
@Steve Cohn: Our "fair share" of the retirement liabilities is the 22 cents we currently pay. Provided MOFD stays as an agency separate from the City of Orinda, we Orindans will never pay more, unless we, the citizens of Orinda decide to do so at the ballot box. We need to keep it that way. And your friend Borenstein seems to agree. Please read the first sentence of the Times endorsement: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_21572616/contra-costa-times-editorial-glazer-and-smith-best?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com
Janet Maiorana September 24, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Eastofthehills, There are several ways to look at Orinda's subsidy to Moraga? According to MOFD property tax revenue 2011/12, Orinda's Ad Valorem property tax provides 64.5 of MOFD's budget compared to only 34.5% from Moraga. One way to look at the funding inequity is with cost of firefighters: Orinda provides $10,529,000 for 11 firefighters which equals $957,181 per firefighter. Moraga provides $5,796.071 for 8 firefighters which equals $724,508 per firefighter. Orinda is paying $232,673 more per f.f. than Moraga. Using Moraga's cost per f.f., Orinda would save $2,559,940 annually with an Orinda Fire District. ($232.673 x 11 f.f.). With that kind of savings, Orinda could have paved their roads paved maybe not in gold but certainly with the best paving possible. Using the cost of taxes per taxable parcel for MOFD, Orinda would save $3,565,364.50 annually with an Orinda Fire District. Once Wilder/Pulte come on line Orinda's subsidy to Moraga increases significantly . One cannot blame Moragans for ignoring the facts but Orindans are needlessly driving on gravel roads.
Eastofthehills September 24, 2012 at 11:57 PM
@Steve correct me if I am wrong but isn't the Moraga way/Orchard Dr station only around because of MOFD? Pre 97' was there a station there? If not the placement of the station was made specifically to bridge the between south orinda and moraga and a direct result of creation of the MOFD. In terms of "fair" share one source of fire revenue you have left out seems to be the commercial taxes collected, furthermore are the Orinda and Moraga households in your numbers only SFR's or do they include apartments and condos? Do Moraga businesses subsidize Orinda residential fire services? Outside of prop 13 houses in Orinda and Moraga generally sell for about the same price and are assessed the same % of ad valorem tax for fire service. (of course a long timer like yourself is probably not paying taxes on the full assessed value of his home as you've got some prop 13 protection) I'd really like the website to fix the section V of the report so I can see the full detail. However i think that in terms of it's "fair" share both cities pay it as % of their assessed values. (unless you are saying Orinda pays a higher % tax than Moraga............)
Janet Maiorana September 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Eastofthehills. You asked if Orinda & Moraga pay the same tax. No, Orinda does pay a higher tax rate than Moraga which is part of the problem. As I see it, Orinda entered into a flawed contract because Orinda pays some 22.6% tax rate for MOFD whereas Moraga only pays some 19%. Orinda has 7,366 taxable parcels. Orinda's AdValorem Tax to MOFD is $10,529,000 which averages $1429.40 per parcel. Moraga has 6,131 taxable parcels. Moraga's Ad Valorem Tax to MOFD is $5,796,071 which averages on $945.37 per parcel.. Orinda pays an annual tax differential of $484.03 more per parcel fhan Moraga. As I said earlier, using Moraga's parcel tax model, Orinda would save $3,565,364.50 annually with an Orinda Fire District. These 2011/12 facts from the Contra Costa County Controllers Office are only of concern to Orindans and not the community it subsidizes.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop September 25, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Salary Spiking must go. And go retroactively. People who work long careers at a job deserve a fair retirement basis. But once your productive years are behind you, you should not be allowed to walk away from said job with a salary larger than the last level earned. That is insanity. Anything close is nuts, but MORE! Base it on an average earned over the years of employment. This sort of math, even for the G.E.D. types that are benefiting from 'spiking', makes for an unavoidable fiscal crisis over and above the one we all are enjoying now. It is a system designed to fail all of us. How did this happen? Inmates take over the asylum? It is astonishingly stupid. And when the other boot falls on these looters ("we were just playing by the rules"), if they complain about retroactive application they should lose the entire retirement benefit. This type of lunacy cannot be tolerated. End it now.
Janet Maiorana September 26, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Fritz, It is easy to say we should stop this lunacy. Unfortunately, this lunacy WILL NOT cease unless lots, and I do mean lots of we, the people get involved. Herein lies the problem. Since inception of MOFD there are hardly ever more than 4 or 5 citizens at the Board Meetings. Usually it is the same 4 or 5. The same 4 or 5 have complained to the deaf ears of the Directors and the Orinda City Council for years. What is the solution?
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop September 26, 2012 at 01:12 AM
How well I know that, Janet. I can remember when civil service jobs were essentially filled by nepotism and various forms of Chicago style cronyism. This level of egregious public larceny will be legend as it takes chowing down at the public trough to an inconceivable new level. I thought I was done with this sort of battle, but this one drives me to action. I hope others join us to right this criminal abuse of public funds.
Eastofthehills September 26, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Janet so you are saying that the Chief Bradley is wrong when he states: "Everyone pays 1 percent of assessed property values in property taxes…post proposition 13…" Also you need to define rate: it is obviously not 22.6% and 19% of the assessed value of the homes/parcels. Generally a parcel tax charges you a fixed amount of money per amount of assessed value. i.e. $20 per $10,000 of assessed value. Are you saying this formula is different for Orinda and Moraga? Or that because of prop 13 and assessed values Orinda pays more in fire service? Since the parcel tax rate across the district is the same; the only issue you can grind on is that Orinda currently has a higher total assessed value then Moraga. Using your own logic we should kill prop 13 and so newer buyers like myself can stop subsidizing older ones like yourself and Steve.
Janet Maiorana September 26, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Eastofthehills, All taxable properties (parcels) are taxed according to 1% Ad Valorem Tax. 19% of Moraga's Ad Valorem Tax goes to MOFD, whereas 22.6% of Orinda's Ad Valorem Tax goes to MOFD. Please read Sec. I, pages 4-7, www.OrindaTaskForce.org. When Orinda detached from ConFire & formed MOFD, the Orinda taxes previously dedicated to Con Fire, 22.6% of the 1% Ad Valorem Tax transfered to MOFD. I believe Orinda accepted a flawed contract because of the 22.6% Orinda transfered while Moraga only transfered 19% to MOFD. The fact Orinda properties have a higher assessed valuation than Moraga makes the MOFD contract even more egregious. MOFD has an additional tax called the MOFD Fire Flow Parcel Tax. This tax has a completely different formula than the Ad Valorem Tax. You can call the Contra Costa County Assessor's office. Perhaps they can explain MOFD funding more clearly for you. We should all be happy to have Prop 13. Even though a Buyer acquires a house today, the assessor is limited to raising the property taxes by only 2% annually. Without Prop 13 many home owners could not afford to stay in their homes. We recall those pre Prop 13 days when our property taxes were going up 5% a year. It was scary especially for t retired seniors we all become. Bottom line, why should the average Orinda home owner pay $484.02 more annually than the average Moraga home for supposedly the same emergency MOFD service.

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