A three-way fire agency merger in the Oakdale area could help stabilize finances for the service, a report discussed Monday night said.
The board of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District heard the findings of a study it commissioned on a proposed merger with the city fire department in Oakdale and the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District.
The report projects that budget reserves would improve modestly if the merger were approved. The three agencies had combined surpluses of $193,316 in the 2012-13 fiscal year, but that would rise to an estimated $406,622 in 2015-16, when spending would total $13.46 million.
The deeper cushion would allow the enlarged district to put money toward capital projects and help it weather the uncertainties of a new agency, said Cathy Dominico, a managing partner with Capitol Public Finance Group, the Roseville-based firm that did the report.
“That tells me it can work,” she said. “You just need to be cautious in your budgeting.”
The Stanislaus Consolidated board took no action, but it soon could vote to apply for the merger to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission. The Oakdale Rural board and the Oakdale City Council also have shown initial support for the idea.
The merger would create one large district to handle fire and emergency medical services in much of central and eastern Stanislaus County.
Stanislaus Consolidated, created by a merger of smaller agencies in 1995, serves a 217-square-mile area that includes Riverbank, Empire, Waterford, Hickman, La Grange and the Beard Industrial District near southeast Modesto.
Oakdale Rural, established in 1945, covers 239 square miles, including Valley Home and Knights Ferry. The 100-year-old city department covers 5.5 square miles.
Oakdale City Councilman Farrell Jackson, who attended the meeting, said he needs to study the numbers further to see if the merger would benefit his city.
The merger could mean that annual assessments on properties in Oakdale Rural would be replaced by those charged in the Stanislaus Consolidated service area. For the city, the funding could include this new assessment as well as an agreement to share other tax revenue that had gone to its fire service.
Fire officials have talked often in recent years about the benefits of mergers to deal with increasing demands and sluggish income. In 2010, the Modesto Regional Fire Authority was created by a merger of the Modesto and Salida agencies and the county fire warden’s office.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.