LAKE COUNTY – The 2021-2022 Grand Jury’s Final Report included a review of the failure of Measure A, a proposal to increase the parcel tax in Kelseyville in order to obtain a much-needed accessory fire station titled “MEASURE A: Measure A: Kelseyville Fire District’s attempt at direct democracy.
The proposed tax was voted against with a final vote tally of 46% in favor to 53% against, rendering the Kelseyville Fire Protection District unable to consistently and appropriately respond to emergency calls. The grand jury report shows the Kelseyville Fire Protection District covers approximately 97 square miles and has two operating fire stations, one in downtown Kelseyville and another on Soda Bay Rd. in the North Shore. ‘Azure.
The Riviera station is staffed with one firefighter per shift and current response times exceed 15 minutes while the ideal response time is five minutes. This is not only dangerous, especially during wildfire season, but it also increases local insurance rates and negatively affects home sales. The report states: “The purpose of the parcel tax proposal was therefore to be able to hire more staff and build a new station. The estimate for building and maintaining a new fire station was $2.4 million and for hiring six to eight additional firefighters was $1,215,000. Annual debt service and administrative costs were estimated at $200,000.
To supplement their consideration of the matter, the Grand Jury interviewed numerous district voters and officials from the Kelseyville Fire District and other districts in which the package tax proposals have been successful. In addition, jurors reviewed tax documents from his website and media postings before and after the election. A literature review on California parcel taxes was also conducted.
The proposed increase was along the lines of several others that have passed in other Lake County districts which the grand jury found are “Lake County Fire Protection District – 2017 – $120 per single family residence, with no expiration.” South Lake County Fire Protection District – 2018 – $10 maximum per benefit unit, with no expiration. Lakeport Fire Protection District – 2021 – Maximum $6.14 per benefit unit – no expiration.
An unsuccessful package tax election was held in the Northshore Fire Protection District in 2018, $4 per benefit unit, with no expiration. The district hired an out-of-town consulting firm, NBS/CivicMic in Temecula in February 2021, who then recommended Merced’s MK Election Services who all worked to create a “multi-faceted and responsive” website and a toll-free phone number to help respond to the public as well as holding “town hall” style meetings that were limited to Zoom due to the COVID pandemic. In the end, the total cost to the district was $144,878.37.
The Grand Jury notes several possible reasons for Measure A’s failure, including a negative response to the idea of a new station which included costing too much, misunderstandings about funding sources and bond repayments, and a dislike of campaign management. . For a second attempt at Measure A, the jury made eight recommendations, some of which included selecting a more regional consulting firm, using the services of the Lake County Registrar of Electors instead of an outside firm, considering a less confusing tax rates, approaching the public through more traditional means, and aligning the upcoming election with a primary or general election to attract higher turnout.
This report and others can be found in the Grand Jury section of the county website, laccountyca.gov.