NEWS

TV talk: Lake Shastina's special tax Measure D

Skye Kinkade
Proponents of the Measure D parcel tax to help fund Lake Shastina's Public Safety Department and those opposed participated in a forum recorded in the Siskiyou Media Council studios at College of the Siskiyous last week. Shown left to right on the set are Lake Shastina Community Services District General Manager John McCarthy, Chief of Public Safety Mike Wilson, and LSCSD board members Tom Wetter and Corrine Moller; moderator Penny Bloodhart; and EJ Hanlon and Jack Phillips.

Lake Shastina Community Services District board member Corrine Moller said Measure D, which would impose a special tax to help the community fund its Public Safety Department, is simple. “If we want to keep the service, we need to pay for it,” she said.

Those opposed to the measure, which will appear on the June 3 ballot, believe the department may need to pare down its services to a more affordable level.

Moller was one of six panelists who participated in an informational show about Measure D that was recorded last week by Siskiyou Media Council in its studio at College of the Siskiyous in Weed.

Also appearing on the approximately 30 minute show hosted by Penny Bloodhart are opponents EJ Hanlon and Jack Phillips, as well as Lake Shastina Community Services District General Manager John McCarthy, Public Safety Department Chief Mike Wilson, and CSD board member Tom Wetter.

Phillips said he believes it’s wrong that many Lake Shastina property owners do not live there, and therefore won’t be able to vote on the issue, even though they will be responsible for paying the special tax.

The show was produced by County Clerk Colleen Setzer as a way of keeping voters informed about upcoming ballot measures. It is scheduled to air on Sundays at 7 p.m. and Mondays at 1 p.m. on both MCTV15 and YCTV4 and the siskiyoumediacouncil.org online stream beginning April 20.

The show will also be available on the siskiyoumediacouncil.org Video on Demand playlist “Election 2014” as of April 25.

Why Measure D?

If approved, the Measure D special tax would replace the current fire and police tax collected quarterly with the water and sewer bill in Lake Shastina.

The special tax would be $124 annually ($10.33 per month) on all properties, improved or not. Currently, property owners pay $105 a year, or $8.75 a month for police and fire services.

Wetter said fees haven’t increased in 18 years while basic costs such as electricity and gas have risen. He said the current tax level is insufficient to maintain the current level of service.

The department has been working under a budget shortfall that must be supplemented by money from the LSCSD General Fund, said McCarthy.

If approved, Measure D funds would be deposited into a separate, special account to be used only to provide public safety services, “including but not limited to police protection and fire protection and emergency medical response services, training, wages and benefits of police officers and firefighters, administration, and to acquire fire fighting or police equipment needed to carry out the functions of the department,” according to the measure’s text.

Hanlon said he believes the fact that empty and developed lots will be assessed at the same value is unfair, because empty lots don’t require police or medical coverage.

Hanlon is concerned about the future cost of the tax, which could increase by $24 annually, by board resolution, for six years after Measure D is enacted.

If all six increases are imposed, the rate in 2020 would be $268 annually ($22.33 per month).

After six years, voter approval would be required to increase the annual rate.

McCarthy said the board would need to have a public hearing to consider increasing the tax and this would be decided on a year-by-year basis.

“I’ve never seen a tax not go up,” Hanlon said. He pointed out that Lake Shastina residents already pay taxes, as well as the CAL FIRE fee for fire protection, and some have trouble getting by without this increased burden.

Hanlon said the department should cut out the “nice to have” services.

“You don’t go to dinner if you can’t pay the bill... I think you do a good job,” Hanlon said, adding that he believes some of what the Public Safety Department does may be unnecessary.

What if it doesn’t pass?

Wetter pointed out that Lake Shastina is the county’s largest unincorporated community and has a population of 2,700 people who need Public Safety services.

Chief Wilson said if Measure D doesn’t pass June 3, the immediate effect would be one of his part time officers would go to quarter time. He expressed concern about having enough volunteers to cover the community during fire season when they are working out of the area on seasonal jobs.

Without a local fire department, CAL FIRE would respond to fire and emergency calls in Lake Shastina. Wilson predicted longer response times because firefighters would need to come from their station in Weed.

Without the Public Safety Department, the Sheriff’s Department, which is already spread thin, would respond to calls in Lake Shastina, said Wilson. County Animal Control would deal with animal calls, but the services wouldn’t be as individual or personal as they are now.

No matter what happens in June, Wilson said his department will continue to do the best it can.

If Measure D does pass

Phillips predicted that Measure D will cause more home foreclosures because costs are rising everywhere, and this will be “just another burden.”

Phillips said he believes the measure is being improperly administered, and that Lake Shastina is improperly managed, an allegation the proponents deny.

Wetter said Measure D is progressing according to strict Proposition 218 guidelines and in order for it to pass, it needs a two-thirds vote.

Wetter said the district sought “the best legal advice available” in pursuing the measure, and they are following all statutes and codes.

Moller said Measure D is about voters, and whether they wish to keep their public safety department or not. She invited everyone to attend the LSCSD board meetings and added that all financial documents are readily available.

“We have nothing to hide and everything to share,” Moller said.