Glen Ellen voters will weigh in on Measure T
Registered voters within the boundaries of the Glen Ellen Fire Protection District (GEFPD) will vote Nov. 6 on Measure T, a proposed parcel tax.
The measure will require two-thirds approval to pass.
Glen Ellen is one of only two fire districts in the county that does not already impose some levy to aid in funding fire services.
If the measure is OK’d, each year the district’s board of directors, after a public hearing, would be able to request that a tax of up to $200 be placed on residential and lodging parcels, up to $100 for agricultural and vacant parcels, and $0.05 to $0.09 per square foot for commercial, industrial and warehouse property.
If the maximum tax was imposed, it is estimated that Measure T would raise $387,000 annually.
Similar measures have been put on the November ballot for voters in the Valley of the Moon Fire Protection District (Measure Y), and the Schell-Vista Fire Protection District (Measure X).
The “Yes on Measure T” campaign is being led by a campaign committee chaired by Chris Landry and Rusty Sims, with Matt Atkinson, Ben Gulson and Joe Gilmore making up the balance of the committee.
Mailers have been sent out to Glen Ellen residents, and signs have been passed out. Volunteers have been going door to door to advocate for Measure T.
“For the most part, the feedback has been very positive,” said Landry, a Glen Ellen resident and volunteer firefighter who is also a professional firefighter for the Oakland Fire Department.
In July of 2017 the GEFPD officially entered into a five-year contract with the Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue Authority (SVFRA) to provide improvement in service and fire response times. There is now uninterrupted service in Glen Ellen because a captain and engineer/paramedic are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Under the terms of the contract, cost to the GEFPD is 75 percent of the county tax funds it receives, with the remaining 25 percent of those property tax funds staying within the GEFPD budget, supplemented by the fundraising efforts of the Glen Ellen Firefighters Association – monies that go, in part, to the upkeep and maintenance of equipment.
Landry said that since 10 percent of Glen Ellen’s housing burned last year (183 homes), the GEFPD will be looking at a property tax shortfall for an undefined period, and Measure T would help replace some of that lost revenue and reduce financial uncertainty.
Adding to financial uncertainty, argue Measure T supporters, is the future of fire services on lands currently occupied by the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). Currently the state funds the Eldridge Fire Department there, but SDC is closing down and at some point responsibility for fire services will fall to the GEFPD since the 900-plus acres fall within its boundaries.
“Measure T allows us to have that sustainability to plan for the future,” said Landry. He added that not only will adequate tax revenue help ensure the sustainability of the contract with SVFRA, funds will also be used to increase fire prevention, defensible space programs, and public education and emergency preparedness services to the community.
Landry said that there may be years where the annual budget revenue outlook is more favorable than it is now, and that there may be no need to impose a maximum tax on parcels – that number could be anywhere between $0 and $200 in theory.
When the GEFPD board of directors voted to put a parcel tax measure on the ballot, the vote was 3-1. Then-director Steve Perry voted no, arguing that the parcel tax idea was premature and unnecessary given his own budget projections. Perry also objected to the fact that there is no sunset clause in the measure.
In addition to its other provisions, Measure T requires that a report be issued each year with information regarding the amount of taxes collected and expended, as well as the status of projects funded with the tax proceeds.
Those wanting more information on Measure T can contact Ben Gulson on the Yes on Measure T Committee at 529-3742, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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