A parcel tax to partly fund Hesperia's fire service will appear on the ballot in November.


Tuesday night, the Hesperia City Council voted to put a special parcel tax on the ballot, by a 3-2 vote, with Councilmen Russ Blewett and Paul Bosacki dissenting.


"I signed [a no new taxes] pledge" during the 2010 election season, said Blewett. "This is one person who will do exactly what he said he will do."


"This is a three-legged donkey running in the Kentucky Derby," said Bosacki. "It doesn't have much of a chance."


The Hesperia Fire District is technically a separate entity than the city of Hesperia and is primarily funded by 15 cents of every dollar residents pay in property taxes. With plummeting property tax revenue following the collapse of the residential housing market, the district has seen its revenues dwindle as well.


This year's $8.3 million budget is $1.3 million short of last year's $9.64 million -- a drop of 14 percent. Last year, the Hesperia City Council drained almost all of the district's reserves keeping staffing at the same level, despite the decline in revenue.


The city contracts with the San Bernardino County Fire Department, and is unable to negotiate salary and benefits directly.


"When the city council at the time voted to contract the fire district out to the county" in 2004, said Mayor Mike Leonard, a retired Hesperia Fire Department firefighter, "we lost control of it."


The proposed tax is for $85 per parcel, and the tax will expire (or "sunset") after five years. The revenue will only go to the fire district. As a special tax with restrictions on how it can be spent, it will require 66 percent of voters to vote in favor of it.


Tuesday night's vote also includes a Plan B that will automatically take effect if voters reject the tax at the ballot box on Nov. 8: The city will eliminate 9 firefighter positions on Jan. 1, although exact details will be worked out at that time.


The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on Aug. 2 at 3 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue. (The earlier start time is to accommodate council members and city staff attending National Night Out later that evening.)


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.