Initial vote tally just shy of two-thirds needed to pass fire parcel tax
The result of the Measure K parcel tax was too close to call Tuesday night, May 5. With all precincts reporting by 8:12 p.m. according to the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters, the measure had 63.26% “yes” votes, coming in just short of the 66.67% needed to pass. While all ballots for the special election are mail-in, the Registrar of Voters has until June 4 to certify election results and to count any ballots mailed by May 5, and received after.
Measure K is a parcel tax aimed at supporting better wildfire preparedness, staffing costs and equipment placement for the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District, which encompasses landowners in the Geyserville, Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill and Knights Valley areas. The district was formerly known as the Geyserville Fire Protection District, before it began consolidating with other local fire districts, something it continues to pursue by potentially adding the Geysers, Fitch Mountain and Sotoyome areas into the district.
The annual tax will vary depending on property types and structure uses — $160 per dwelling unit for residential structures under square feet 2,000 feet, $200 per dwelling unit for residential structures from 2,000 to 3,500 square feet, $240 per residential dwelling unit larger than 3,500 square feet, $0.11 per square foot for non-residential structures, $54 per agricultural building (up to three buildings) and $170 per parcel for vacant lands and all parcels larger than 20 acres.
If approved, the proceeds from the tax could only be used for operating, acquiring and maintaining fire suppression equipment; paying off personnel costs; and funding capital improvements.
“This is needed because our costs keep going up, we’re getting asked to do more and more wildfire preparation and we’re the largest (by geographic size) district in the county,” fire district officer Rob Stewart told the Reveille in a mid-April interview.
The fire district anticipates that, should it pass, the measure will bring in around $650,000 annually.
There was no opposition for Measure K listed in the May 5 ballot pamphlet, and an argument in favor of the measure was signed by State Sen. Mike McGuire, Fourth District Supervisor James Gore, Geyserville businessperson Harry Bosworth, Knights Valley fire chief August Grube and north county fire chief Marshall Turbeville.
The tight fight for Measure K comes on the heels of failed Measure G, a countywide fire tax effort that fell short of being voted in by less than 2% during the March 3 election. Like Measure K, Measure G needed a two-thirds majority to pass, and inevitably brought in 64.84% “yes” votes.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some generous constituents over the years, but the costs are catching up to us and we’re trying to be proactive,” Stewart said.