The Hesperia City Council was divided over a proposed $85 parcel tax -- and their disagreement will be on full display for the voters in November.
The arguments for and against Measure F -- which would tax property owners $85 per parcel, with the revenue going to the Hesperia Fire District -- were released by the city on Wednesday.
Three council members -- Mayor Mike Leonard and councilmen Bill Holland and Thurston "Smitty" Smith -- signed their name to the argument in favor of Measure F. The argument will appear in the ballot book sent to voters later this fall.
"Measure F -- the Hesperia Fire Safety Tax -- is the fire department's plea for help!" the argument reads in part. "Over the past three years, the fire district's major revenue source, property tax, has plummeted by 24 percent, crippling the department's abilities to continue providing adequate firefighting and paramedic services to citizens.
"Measure F will not ever be used to increase wages or benefits for firefighters but simply maintain the current level of staffing we have today: four paramedic ambulances and three paramedic fire engines to cover 74 square miles. To maintain these levels will cost each property owner, at most, $85 per year, which is $7.08 per month or 24 cents per day. Should revenues increase, the city council can lower the amount annually.
"Measure F will only last for five years and cannot be renewed or increased without a vote of the people. Should Measure F fail, the city council will have to cut nine firefighter/paramedics on January 1, 2012, leaving fire engines without a paramedic on board to give advanced life support to you, or your family. You will have to wait for an ambulance to arrive before getting lifesaving help."
Council members Russ Blewett and Paul Bosacki, along with Al Vogler, the husband of former mayor Rita Vogler, signed their names to the ballot statement arguing against Measure F.
"Hesperians need to stop the unnecessary, unfair Measure F fire parcel tax," the argument reads in part. "With unemployment at 18 percent, foreclosed homes, families and businesses struggling, these are severe economic hard times. With the current economy, we can't afford another tax increase.
"Hesperia has 35,211 taxable parcels, taxed at $84 for five years, equals $13.8 million dollars! The amount needed to maintain current fire staffing for five years is $5.5 million.
"SB County is staffing its fire stations with two firemen per engine. It is safe and the best service for citizens. Safety is not an issue. A NO vote on Measure F will help ensure that homeowners will not lose their homes. A NO vote will not reduce fire services. We ask that you join with many hardworking, overtaxed Hesperians and VOTE NO on Measure F. Together, let's send a message that government must live on a fixed budget."
Measure F will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. It will require the support of two-thirds of voters for the parcel tax to go into effect.
The full versions of both the arguments for and against Measure F, as well as an impartial analysis statement by city attorney Eric L. Dunn, are available at the city manager's office at Hesperia City Hall. Rebuttal arguments can be given there through Aug. 26.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.