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Cayucos residents rejected a proposed special tax assessment for fire protection and emergency services, sending Measure C-16 to defeat by a 20-point margin.
With all votes counted, 60 percent of voters opposed the measure. It required a two-thirds majority to succeed.
The measure would have raised the town’s special fire tax to $125 per unit — a single-family residence is four units — or $500 per household per year. The current assessment is $100 for a single-family residence.
The Cayucos Fire Department serves the community of roughly 2,600 people and responds to more than 400 calls for service each year with an ideal staff of about 20 paid, on-call firefighters, which are considered volunteer by state standards.
The recent loss of several firefighters and the department’s inability to attract qualified staff on a volunteer basis led to the Cayucos Firefighters Association asking residents to fund a full-time staff and keep emergency services local.
The department has been unsustainable since October, according to union vice president Mark Walton, with just 11 on-call positions filled and a budget of roughly $500,000, about half of which goes to contract with Cal Fire during the fire off-season.
Fire commissioners proposed dissolving the department last fall and contracting solely with Cal Fire, which already maintains a fire station in town. With the failure of Measure C-16, the department will likely disband and Cal Fire would assume emergency services and all costs for providing those services that exceeded income from property taxes and the current special fire tax.
Those costs would be paid through the county general fund.