From putting out fires to making sure street lights work, the $2.9 billion Kern County budget for this fiscal year ensures services are delivered. Sales and property taxes are the county’s highest source of revenue.

Most county departments get their money from the general fund. The money in that budget is divvied to departments such as the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, parks and recreation, veterans services and human services.

The Kern County Fire Department has its own source of revenue called the fire fund. That money comes from property taxes and goes to support fire services. It is funded by property tax. Money in the fire fund cannot be taken from the fire department’s budget.

But this year’s untouchable $100 million fire fund isn’t enough.

Fire department expenditures will be about $151 million a year this fiscal year. That’s $5.9 million less than what the department spent last year.

Here’s a breakdown of where the department got most of its money last fiscal year (2018-2019):

  • $98.9 million came from the fire fund.
  • $38 million came from charges for services. This means McFarland, Arvin and other cities without their own fire department pay KCFD to respond to those areas.
  • $7.3 million came from public safety sales tax, part of Prop. 172.
  • $1.2 million came from licenses and permits.
  • $6 million came from the general fund.

Since the fire department is pulling money from the general fund, it takes away from other county services.

That means fewer Sheriff’s deputies, less road repair and less park maintenance. Over the years, the fire budget needed more money and pulling $14 million from the general fund, and although changes to the department reduced that number to $6 million last fiscal year, it is expected to increase again next fiscal year.