Big Bear Fire Authority budget, June 12, 2019

Big Bear Fire Chief Jeff Willis recommends the Fire Authority consider the less expensive option for a Community Facilities District.

Big Bear Fire Authority board meets Tuesday, June 18, to consider approval of the assessment structure for funding the Big Bear Fire Department.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the Big Bear Fire Station in Big Bear Lake.

Approval of an assessment structure is the next step in moving toward a ballot measure in March 2020 that will form a community facilities district to augment funding for the department. On June 4, the board considered two options that would raise funds to either an optimal level or strengthen service level. A community facilities district will not only assess residential property owners in Big Bear Valley, but also tap into the commercial and visitor market for added funding based on service needs and demand.

An an hoc committee met June 12 to wade through the various options and will recommend at the June 18 meeting to approve a structure that taxes vacant parcels and occupied dwellings, commercial properties, private home rental properties and commercial lodging properties. The ski resorts are also assessed and an increase in the transient occupancy tax is proposed. Any increase in TOT will need to be brought before the Big Bear Lake City Council and only facilities within the city limits will be subject to the TOT.

According to the staff report for the June 18 meeting, there have been discussions regarding alternate methods to collect the fair share from visitors. “It appears at this time there may be value in furthering the discussion while at the same time proceeding down the path as presented in Attachment A,” the staff report states.

Attachment A, which will be presented at the June 18 meeting, calls for a 6 cent per square foot assessment on residential properties, $35 for vacant lots, $78 per room for hotels, motels, timeshares and private home rentals; $750,000 from the ski resorts, $35 for vacant commercial buildings and 6 cents per square foot for commercial property. All assessments are annual.

The mean square footage on homes in Big Bear is 1,400 square feet, according to Fire Chief Jeff Willis. He did clarify that private home rentals for example would be assessed the 6 cents per square foot and the $78 per bedroom rate under the current structure. So a three-bedroom, 1,400 square foot home used as a private home rental would pay $318 per year.

A 1 percent TOT increase is also proposed. Transient occupancy tax is imposed usually by lodging facilities. The city of Big Bar Lake and San Bernardino County impose and collect TOT. Any increase in TOT would also need to go before voters, but wouldn't happen until Noember 2020, Willis said.

The total annual revenue is estimated at $4,132,391, which includes $600,000 in TOT revenue if that is approved at some time in the future.

It is recommended by the committee and staff that the board approve the structure presented, which will strengthen service. The final document must be approved by Aug. 6. The board will be asked to approve an exemption for low income seniors from the CFD and authorize an annual cost adjustment tied to the consumer price index.

Also under consideration is including impact fees for new construction charged at the time a building permit is issued to help with future capital needs. The board will also be asked to authorize Fire Chief Jeff Willis to continue discussions with business stakeholders regarding alternative methods of imposing visitor charges.

The Big Bear Fire Authority board meeting is open to the public. The station is at 41090 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake. The meeting begins at 5 p.m.

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