LAKE COUNTY— The 2021-2022 Grand Jury final report included a review of the failed Measure A, a proposed parcel tax increase in Kelseyville in order to gain a much needed accessory Fire Station titled “MEASURE A: Measure A: Kelseyville Fire Protection District Attempt at Direct Democracy.”
The proposed tax was voted against with a final count of 46 percent of votes in favor to 53 percent opposed, rendering the Kelseyville Fire Protection District unable to consistently and properly respond to emergency calls. The Grand Jury Report illustrates that the Kelseyville Fire Protection District covers approximately 97 square miles and has two fire stations in operation, one in downtown Kelseyville and another on Soda Bay Rd. in the Riviera.
The Riviera station is staffed with one firefighter per shift, and current response times exceed 15 minutes while ideal response time is five minutes. This is not only dangerous, especially in wildfire season, but it also increases local insurance rates and negatively affects home sales. The report states “The goal of proposing a parcel tax, then, was to be able to hire more staff and build a new station. The estimate for building/maintaining a new station was $2.4 million and for hiring six to eight more firefighters was $1,215,000. The annual debt service and administrative costs were estimated at $200,000.”
To complete their examination of the issue, the Grand Jury interviewed numerous District voters and Fire District officials in Kelseyville and other districts in which parcel tax proposals succeeded. As well, jurors reviewed its website tax-related materials and the media postings from before and after the election. A literature review on California parcel taxes was also completed.
The proposed increase was along the lines of several others that have passed in other districts in Lake County which, according to the Grand Jury, are “Lake County Fire Protection District – 2017 – $120 per single-family residence, no expiration. South Lake County Fire Protection District – 2018 – Maximum of $10 per benefit unit, no expiration. Lakeport Fire Protection District – 2021 – Maximum of $6.14 per benefit unit – no expiration.
An unsuccessful parcel tax election was held in the Northshore Fire Protection District in 2018, $4 per benefit unit, no expiration.” The district contracted an out of town consulting firm, The NBS/CivicMic firm in Temecula in February 2021 who then recommended the MK Election Services from Merced who all worked to create a “multifaceted and responsive” website and toll-free telephone number to help address the public as well as holding to “town hall” style meetings that were restricted to Zoom due to the COVID pandemic. Ultimately the total cost to the district was $144,878.37.
The Grand Jury notes several possible reasons for the failure of Measure A including a negative response to the idea of a new station which included the cost involved being too high, misunderstandings of funding s and bond repayment, and a dislike of how the campaign was managed. For a second attempt at Measure A the Jury made eight recommendations, some of which were choosing a more regional consultation firm, employing the services of the Lake County Registrar of Voters instead of an outside firm, considering a less confusing tax rate, approaching the public through more traditional means and aligning the next election with a primary or general election to attract a higher voter turnout.
This report and others can be found in the Grand Jury section of the county website, lakecountyca.gov.
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